It's generally estimated that between 50-60% of Americans have not made any estate plans.
This has some very serious implications and the negative effects of doing nothing about it can even begin while you're still alive!
Did you know that in the state of Utah, if you have over $100K in total assets, or if you own any real estate, regardless of its value, your estate must go through probate if you do not have a well-crafted estate plan in place prior to your death?
It's imperative to declare a person to make financial, healthcare and investment decisions, and other day to day matters, including paying bills, if you are not able to.
Without a healthcare plan and power of attorney, usually bestowed on a relative, hospitals have to follow their own protocols. It can even mean that relatives living far away are not able to obtain something as basic as a condition check without having to go through a lengthy and expensive legal proceeding.
Legally recognized power of attorney is very important in areas such as real estate and vehicle ownership, if items need to be sold, titles need to be updated or information is needed from the bank for payoffs etc.
Dying intestate without a will means that your estate will have no pre-planned structure that deals efficiently with asset distribution and its management. A correctly constructed will avoids probate, whereby courts can become involved in the process.
A well-conceived plan empowers you and your beneficiaries to exercise complete control over what will transpire, including compilation of the final tax return that needs to be filed following your death.
It's also important that your plans create a line of succession so that someone will always be there to handle the estate.
Effective estate planning avoids stress and confusion for your survivors. They could be unable to carry out your wishes without any legally recognized record.
No one knows what lies ahead in the future, so you would be well advised to act now and liaise with your legal advisor(s), not least to give everyone concerned peace of mind and a lot less worry at a distressing time.
Cedar City attorney David Westwood commented: “Nobody thinks that their family will fight after they are gone; however, it really can happen to anyone. The best of families can be torn apart if an effective estate plan is not in place.
“The last thing you should be worrying about when you are in poor health or on your death bed is about money and/or material possessions. An effective estate plan gives you the peace of mind in knowing that your family is protected so that you can focus on what is most important in life.
“An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Putting together a solid estate plan is less expensive than you may think and is certainly a lot less expensive that putting your family through a litigated probate.
“Your house is often the most valuable asset in an estate. Why not put together an estate plan to ensure that the wealth in your estate passes on your terms and to the people you feel would benefit most? It’s not something that should be left for the government to decide.”
David Westwood can be contacted at: