You may be surprised to learn that 60% of all American adults have no estate plan in place. The distribution of your property, the care and custody of your minor children and the identification of who directs the administration of your estate is left to the default laws of intestate succession created by the State of Florida. So, in simpler terms: if you do not have a will or trust, the State will make all your decisions for you.
Another surprising estate planning fact is that on average those people who do have an estate plan, revise or update their documents every 19 years. Imagine if you have done your estate plan in 2003 and never updated it. How different are your financial and personal circumstances now? Would the choices you made, the people you identified and the concerns you addressed, still be appropriate today? Probably not.
Estate planning is often narrowly viewed as a process undertaken to plan for the orderly and efficient transfer of assets at death. A broader viewpoint is that estate planning is life planning, encompassing disability, retirement and creditor protection, as well as who gets what after you are gone.
If you have minor children, your planning should address the support of yourself, your spouse and your children, if you become disabled. It should provide a source of funds for children’s education, day care and medical expenses, as well as for the regular expenses of running your household.
If you have adult children, are you confident that your heirs will not recklessly spend their inheritance? Do you have any concerns that their inheritance may be lost to creditors or in a divorce? Do you have an adult child with special needs?
Finally, do you own a small business? Have you considered what might happen to your business after you are gone? Do you have a business succession plan or buy/sell agreement in place?
A proper estate plan should allow you to control your property while you are alive and well. It should also provide for you and your family if you become disabled. And it should allow you to give what you have to whom you want, in the way you want, all while minimizing the taxes, professional fees and costs to your loved ones.
If you do not have an estate plan, or if your plan requires revision, I recommend that you meet with a qualified estate planning attorney. Once you do have an estate plan, I urge you to review it every two to three years to make sure it still meets your needs.
Life can change in an instant. What are you waiting for?