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Do I need an estate plan? Or maybe you think you don’t. Well, think again! If you’re over the age of eighteen, you need an estate plan.
Why is an estate plan so important?
Estate planning is life planning. When you meet with an estate planning attorney, you may be surprised to find out that estate planners are also life planners. In addition to ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death, we are very concerned with making sure that your wishes are carried out during your lifetime.
An estate planning attorney routinely drafts documents designed to be used only during your lifetime, such as health care proxies, powers of attorney, and standby guardian designations. If you don’t have these documents in place and you experience a temporary or permanent loss of ability to handle your own affairs and make your own decisions, the statutory laws of New York, the government, the courts, and/or law enforcement will decide who can make medical decisions for you, who can access your financial assets, and even who will care for your minor children. If that sounds like a nightmare to you, then you need to meet with an attorney and create an estate plan.
The lack of an estate plan almost always results in the depletion of estate assets after death, and it can result in severe familial conflict.
It’s a fact, many people don’t want to spend the money to meet with an attorney to have their estate planning documents drawn up. They think it will be cheaper to keep the legal system of it. Unfortunately, this is wholly untrue, because uncertainty ends up leading to conflict, which leads to litigation. Consider the following common scenarios:
“Mom said everything was supposed to go equally, but she put me on as a joint owner on the brokerage account. Do I have to give part of it to my siblings?”
“My brother can’t manage money. He’s petitioning to be Dad’s administrator and asked me to sign off on the paperwork, but I don’t trust him, and I don’t think Dad would’ve wanted him to be his administrator.”
“Everything my sister had has beneficiaries, including the life insurance policy she left me. She told me it was a gift to me, but my brother is insisting that it has to be used to pay for her funeral expenses. She said those expenses were to be paid out of an account she left to him!”
In every one of these scenarios, costly litigation is usually the result, because the uncertainty about the deceased person’s intent leads to bitterness, infighting, and costly court involvement. No matter who ends up with the responsibility or how any money in question is distributed, two things are certain: 1) there will be a lot of bitterness between family members, and 2) potentially substantial sums of money will be lost to pay for court and attorney fees.
Do yourself and your family a favor, and make sure you have an estate plan in place that’s created by a trained estate planning attorney. Here at Russo Law Group, our estate planning attorneys would be happy to assist you in creating the estate plan that’s right for you and your family.