Area of Law:
Estate planning is an essential process that everyone should do once they reach adulthood. However, most people put if off believing that they have plenty time, they don’t have enough wealth or assets, or simply because they don’t want to think about what will happen should they become seriously ill (and incapable of making decisions) or pass on. It may seem logical in thought, but the reality is that without the proper legal documentation in place, you and your loved ones could suffer a great deal. Here’s a look at the potential negative consequences of not having an estate plan:
The Court Systems Get Involved
One of the first likely outcomes of not working with an estate planning or trust attorney to secure your assets and well-being is that the legal system could get involved in your personal affairs. Having a will, living will, trust, and power of attorney helps you to forego a lot of legal steps in handling your personal and professional assets. When you don’t have these things, a judge, based on the laws set forth in your state, makes a decision on how things will go.
If you pass away and don’t have a will or trust, your loved ones have to go through probate court to get things ironed out. This process can be long and expensive. During this process, it may also be determined that certain wishes you had for your belongings may not be carried out. This is especially true if certain family members, friends, and/or charities do not constitute an heir in the eyes of the law.
Someone Else Can Legally Make Decisions on Your Health and Personal Affairs
A living will provides hospitals and medical staff with clear instructions on what to do in the event that you become ill or injured to the point that you are unable to speak for yourself. It tells them whether they should resuscitate and what treatments are acceptable. A power of attorney puts someone you know in trust in charge of all the decision making from home repairs to long-term care and business affairs.
If you don’t have either of these things in place before you need them, this leaves your health and the control of your personal affairs back in the hands of the court. A judge will decide who will make decisions on your behalf. If it’s not someone you know or trust, this could mean that your health and your life is in the hands of someone who will mismanage it.
Your Children May Not be Properly Cared for
Estate planning allows you to decide who would be guardian over your children and can also assign a trustee to manage their inheritance until they are old enough. If you were to become incapacitated or pass away while your children were young, not having an estate plan in place could result in your children not getting the care you had hoped for.
The courts, again, will step in and decide where your children to go. This could be a family member or friend you’re not too fond of. If there is no one to take responsibility for your minor children, they could also become wards of the state and sent to a foster home or adopted. Not to mention, the person placed in charge of your children’s inheritance may mismanage the funds or not use them as you would have.
Creditors Can Come for Your Assets
You’ve worked so hard to leave behind whatever assets you have for your loved ones. How disappointing would it be for them to lose what is owed to them to creditors? This is exactly what could happen if you haven’t created an effective estate plan. Any outstanding debts you have at the time of your passing could be required by law to be repaid by liquidating your physical and financial assets. If you have a lot of debt, this could leave your loved ones with nothing to survive on after you’ve passed away. A trust, however, is a legal document with clear instructions on how your assets should be divided. It also protects those assets from being allocated by creditors looking to satisfy any debts.
Yes, estate planning will require the investment of your time and money. It will also require you to make difficult decisions about your health and medical treatment, children, assets, and more. Be that as it may, when you consider the likely outcomes of not having an estate plan in place, it makes sense to get started. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and keep the court system out of your personal affairs by finding the right attorney and creating an iron-clad plan now.