NOTHING IS CERTAIN, EXCEPT DEATH AND TAXES
Numerous polls have shown that over fifty percent of Americans do not have an estate plan, and have never drafted a will. Part of this shocking statistic is driven by a common misconception that if you are not in the infamous “one percent” of society, and you do not have lots of money to leave behind, then you do not need an estate plan. This could not be further from the truth.
The reality is this: whether you are a millionaire or making a modest salary, healthy or sick, married or single, with or without children, you need an estate plan, and you most certainly need a will. Here are just a few reasons why:
Choose how to distribute your assets
Regardless of the size of your estate, one thing is certain – without proper planning, you will not be able to control it after you are gone. Luckily, there are several tools available which allow you to leave behind directives and effectively dictate how your money is to be spent and your assets divided.
For those people who exceed the federal estate tax exemption, proper planning can reduce taxes on your estate to provide more for your loved ones. Proper planning also includes naming beneficiaries on your retirement plans, life insurance policies and annuities, and reviewing those designations on a periodic basis.
Creating a trust is another helpful tool to ensure that money is not squandered, your beneficiaries are protected from creditors, and your money is appropriated according to your wishes after you are gone.
An experienced Louisiana attorney can review your estate and advise you as to which of these tools would be beneficial for your circumstances.
Ease the burden on your family
Losing a family member is a deeply emotional time. The last thing most people want to deal with or even think about after a death is how to divide a loved one’s assets. By creating a will, you can ease the burden on your family by establishing clear intent on how you wish your property to be divided.
Within your will you can do many important things, such as choose an executor, provide guardians for your minor children, and even pre-plan your funeral arrangements. Most importantly, you can ensure your assets go where you would like, rather than get tied-up in the court system.
If you have children, you may also wish to set up a testamentary trust, or a trust within your will. Such a trust can leave you with peace of mind in knowing that money will be distributed over time for your childrens’ health, education and welfare – and won’t go to that shiny new Corvette the minute they turn eighteen. You have complete freedom within your will to designate a Trustee over this Trust.
Alternatively, if you have always wanted to leave your money to a favorite charity, a will is also the place to do that.
It is critically important to make sure that your will is executed properly and according to law. Louisiana has several formalities that must be met in order for a will to be legally sound. If your will does not meet those criteria, your estate may be treated as if there was no will at all. Sitting down with an attorney is the best way to ensure that your will is in the proper format and will be executed according to your wishes.
Protect your business
If you own a business, estate planning is critically important for many reasons. With a business succession plan in place, you can choose who will run your business, own your business, and who will have the authority to direct and manage after you are gone.
Avoid lengthy court battles
One of the most important reasons to plan your estate and pen a legally sound will under the guidance of an attorney is to avoid the long, costly and emotionally draining probate court procedure. Additionally, without a will your property will be distributed by operation of law according to Louisiana rules of intestacy, and not necessarily how you would like it to be distributed. Having an estate plan in place can help distribute your property directly (and more efficiently) to your beneficiaries – allowing you to make decisions about your assets and your family – NOT the court.
The less clear your estate plan is, the more room you leave for family conflicts to arise. Estate litigation is costly, and the longer the court is involved, the less money there will be for loved ones to inherit in the end.
Prepare for the unexpected
Whether you are at the beginning of your career, starting a family, or retired and enjoying time with grandchildren, take the time to sit down with an estate-planning attorney today and talk through your vision of the future. The unexpected can happen to anyone at any time. Meeting with an attorney to execute a Will, Powers of Attorney, a Living Will, a Cremation Authorization and other planning documents will help you prepare for the unexpected in the smartest possible way.
Dutel Law Firm has an extensive estate planning practice with a focus on cost-effective solutions. Call us today at (985) 892-6474 to set up an estate planning consultation and let our attorneys assist you with your estate planning needs.
** Disclaimer: Viewing and/or use of the information contained in this blog post does not establish an attorney/client relationship and should not be considered legal advice. This post is meant to provide general information on certain legal topics and is not to be construed as creating any sort of attorney-client relationship.