By James F. Burdi, Esq.
You may think estate planning is just for the very rich or the very old.
Whether you have young children or aging parents, a traditional or non-traditional
family, a large house or a small car, you should have an estate plan.
An estate plan does more than just direct the distribution of your assets
upon your death. It can protect young or vulnerable beneficiaries from
bad decision-making, minimize taxes, preserve eligibility for government
benefits, and appoint agents to manage your affairs in the event of your
Despite its importance, only 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have Wills, according
to AARP—and the excuses are understandable:
WHY YOU NEED A WILL
- It is something you intend to do but simply have not gotten around to yet.
- You are young and have plenty of time before any of this will apply to you.
- You don’t have a lot of valuable assets.
- Death is an unpleasant subject.
Without an estate plan, your family may be left unprotected and experience
unexpected and undesired outcomes. Without an estate plan, state law will
direct what happens to your property and a court will decide who will
be in charge.
Without a Will or a Trust, your estate will be divided according to the
laws of intestate distribution. The court will name an Administrator to
settle the estate as well as Guardians for your minor children. The Administrator
and Guardians chosen may not be the persons you would prefer. And without
directions laid out in a Will or Trust to the contrary, minors will receive
their inheritances at the age of 18, which can lead to disastrous results.
A good estate plan ensures:
- Your assets are distributed in the manner you direct.
- Young children will be cared for by people you select.
- If you are incapacitated, decisions affecting your personal and financial
well-being will be made by someone you trust.
FIVE THINGS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR WILL
An estate plan doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but it should:
- Designate beneficiaries to receive assets upon your death and appoint an
Executor to carry out your directions.
- Create Trusts, when appropriate, to manage and protect the inheritance
of minors or persons with disabilities. The trust can be created in a
Will or by a separate document. You and your attorney can discuss which
is most advantageous for you.
- Appoint Guardians, both in your Will and with a standby designation, to
assure that your minor children will be raised and cared for by persons
you trust in the event of your death, incapacity, or absence.
- Designate a Health Care Agent to make medical decisions for you in the
event you are unable to make them yourself, and to provide your family
with directions regarding extraordinary medical care.
- Designate an agent under a Power of Attorney to make legal, financial,
and business decisions for you. This will help avoid the cost and delay
of court proceedings in the event you are incapacitated.
Whether you are creating a million-dollar trust for your children’s
education or just making sure your favorite nephew gets your comic book
collection, don’t put off planning your estate. Don’t let
the courts and the default provisions in the law determine outcomes for
you and your family. Be proactive and create a good estate plan. The peace
of mind and security for your loved ones will be worth the time and expense.
This article was originally published in
NY Metro Parents on Oct. 4, 2019. You can read the original