Why Estate Plans are Not Just for the Elderly or Wealthy

Many people have common misconceptions about estate planning. They either believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy, or they believe they don't need to think about it until they reach retirement age, or they believe it's only for people that are married or people that have children. All of these ideas are not necessarily true and believe it or not, everyone can benefit from creating an estate plan, regardless of their age or how much wealth they have accumulated.

An estate plan goes far beyond the will. While a will is at the core of many estate plans, it's only just the beginning. A comprehensive estate plan consists of numerous legal documents that serve different purposes, some of the benefits of having an estate plan include:

  • You get to decide who gets what assets and when
  • You can name an executor to manage your estate
  • You can appoint a successor trustee if you establish a trust
  • With a trust, probate can be avoided
  • You can name a guardian for minor children
  • You can bequeath assets to friends, distant relatives or a favorite charity
  • You can avoid asset distribution under the state's intestate succession laws (which go into effect when you die without a will)
  • You can appoint an agent to make health care and/or financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated
  • You can reduce if not eliminate certain taxes against your estate
  • You can improve your chances of Medicaid eligibility without depriving your loved ones of an inheritance
  • You can plan for long-term care

Perhaps the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to an estate plan is putting it off and procrastinating until it's too late. In the estate planning profession there is this thing called a "death bed will," which is one that someone essentially writes on his or her deathbed. With these types of wills, they can easily fall under scrutiny and questions as to undue influence, lack of mental capacity, duress and fraud. When the probate court or beneficiaries question a death bed will, then such questions give rise to probate litigation or the will can be invalidated altogether by the court.

While no one enjoys thinking about their own mortality, setting up an estate plan is the responsible thing to do, especially if you want certain people or organizations to benefit from the fruits of your labor and your generosity. If you are a parent, a grandparent or if you own land or a home, then estate planning can certainly benefit you.

Our founding attorney Stuart Lee Sherman has a J.D. and an LL.M in taxation, which allows him to understand the mechanics of your situation so he can develop an effective strategy that will maximize the value of your estate while minimizing taxes as much as humanely possible. To learn more about what types of estate planning tools are available to you, please contact an Oakland Estate planning attorney from our firm today at (248) 919-8029.