It is a common misconception that estate planning is only a concern for those individuals with sizeable estates. This is simply not true. Everyone can benefit from comprehensive estate planning, even individuals with average or small estates. A recent article from CNBC reminds us of the importance of having a Will regardless of our overall financial situation, age, or other factors that may lead us to believe a Will is not necessary.
Engaging in Estate Planning
As the article points out, even a checking account and a car present a reason for having a Will regardless of any other assets that might exist. The law requires that title to that vehicle must be changed to whomever the new owner is and there must be someone to distribute the assets in your checking account. Absent a Will, you risk losing a great deal of assets to the state either by default because of failure to nominate an heir or because of the legal costs involved in the probate process where those assets will end up.
While Wills will not help you avoid probate, they do serve as a type of instruction manual for the probate process so that the court is able to distribute your assets according to your wishes. That means you can design a Will to fit your needs, within reason of course. However, a Will can help make sure your estate avoids the pains that could accompany intestate succession, which is the process for distributing assets when an individual does not have a Will and other estate planning documents in place.
Revisiting Your Will
Your Will, much like all of the documents that make up your estate plan, should be revisited on a regular basis. Each time you experience a major life event, you need to make sure that your Will and other estate planning documents are updated appropriately. These types of life events include births, deaths, marriages, and divorces. Even when your heirs experience these life events and you are not necessarily directly affected, you should still revisit your estate planning documents to make sure that they accurately reflect your wishes.
Do Not Forget Your Kids
While you may not want to talk with your children about your own mortality let alone theirs, it is nonetheless an important discussion to have. Once children reach the age of majority, which is often eighteen across the United States, parents have fewer legal rights than they did previously. That means that it may be more difficult for parents to make important medical decisions regarding treatment and care for a child once that child has grown up. Even those in their early 20s can find themselves in need of healthcare directives, power of attorney, and other important documents that are part of responsible and comprehensive estate planning.