Do you think estate planning is only for the well-to-do? Think again. If you fit any of these criteria, you should have an estate plan:
- You are in a serious relationship with someone to whom you are not married
- You have a child or children of any age
- You just got married or remarried
- You own a house
- You want to provide assets to a charity after you are gone
- You provide support for someone over the age of 18
Notice that a dollar amount is not a factor with any of these issues. Wills, trusts and estate plans are needed for much more than simply passing money and assets onto the next generation.
Why you should have an estate plan
If you do not have an estate plan, state laws determine who will receive your assets when you are gone. Your loved ones may be surprised to learn that they are not entitled to live in your home or obtain financial support from your estate if you do not have a valid will or a legally binding estate plan.
Here are a few examples of what might happen:
- Georgia abolished common law marriages on January 1, 1997. If you are not married to your significant other at the time of your death, your immediate blood relatives may get your house and your assets instead of your partner.
- If you had a child with someone else prior to marrying your spouse and having more children, that child may be left without financial support.
- Someone who you don't know or don't like may be put in charge if you are no longer able to make your own financial or medical treatment decisions.
- If you provide financial support for another adult -- such as an elderly aunt with mental disabilities -- that support may end at your death.
These are just a few examples of what might go wrong. There are too many to list here.
You get to decide
An estate plan lets you decide who gets your assets, when they get them and what amounts they receive. A comprehensive estate plan allows you to choose who makes health care decisions on your behalf if you are seriously injured or sick. Estate planning documents allow you to designate who will care for your minor children if you are suddenly no longer able to do so. An estate plan makes the time following your death a little smoother for those who love you most.
Don't leave your future and the future of those you love to chance. Make a New Year's resolution now to establish an estate plan in the coming months. You can even make a call or send an email today to get the process started.