If you read the words “Estate Plan” above and cringed (maybe even almost closed this page out), you are not alone. We recognize estate planning is not all that much fun to think about. But, the only thing worse than thinking about your estate plan, is not thinking about your estate plan. Here is why:
- Protect Your Kids. What if you and your partner/spouse die tomorrow? No one wants to think about that; in fact, it is unthinkable. But the reality is, if you do not engage in estate planning, a judge (aka, someone who is not you), will decide who gets to raise your children, and how they will be raised. Of course, it is possible a court will pick the same person or people you would have picked. But, it is also possible a court will pick someone who would have been your last You can avoid this, simply by Creating a Will.
- Preserve Your Legacy. You have worked hard to get where you are. You may have acquired precious stocks, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, homes, (for some of us, vacation homes), personal collections (artwork, handbags, jewelry), and, much more. Engaging in estate planning allows you to protect your legacy and pass it down to your children and grandchildren, and preserve it for future generations. On the one hand, it is easy to not care about what happens to your things after your gone. But on the other hand, who wants their legacy lost through unwise squandering, or worse, in some pricey divorce?
- Avoid Family Conflict. If you don’t do estate planning, your estate will very likely have to go through probate court. If you don’t know what probate court is, then take my word for it — it is not a very pleasant process, if for no other reason than it is the perfect breeding ground for family conflict. Probate is a court proceeding in which a judge will allocate ownership of your assets to various heirs. And because you didn’t put in writing who you want to leave your assets and money to, your family will have no choice but to duke it out in court!
- Plan for Life, Too!Contrary to popular opinion, estate planning is not just about planning for your death. What if you are alive, but incapacitated (think car accident, stroke, heart attack, etc.), and cannot make your own medical decisions? You will need to name a healthcare proxy and outline your end of life wishes (i.e., pull the plug, or don't pull the plug), so that your loved ones can honor (without agonizing over) what you would have wanted.
If all of this sounds daunting and scary, again, you are not alone. But truly, the only thing scarier than not thinking about all of this, is not thinking about all of this.