Having a will is the most basic step you can take in planning your estate. Without this document in place at your death, your State law could dictate how to divide your material possessions, who will care for your minor children (in the absence of a surviving spouse), what age those children will receive access to their inheritance, and who will be responsible for selling or distributing your items of value.
Despite these facts, nearly six in 10 adults in the U. S. still do not have a will. In our experience, most parents with children under age 18 have done little or no basic estate planning. The problem, according to Megan L. McCann, estate planning attorney and partner at Davis & McCann, P. A., likely centers around two facts: One, young adults rarely consider the possibility of their death and two, many people assume they have insufficient assets to require estate planning.
According to McCann, most Americans undervalue the assets that must be sold or distributed at their death. “Regardless of your age or the size of your bank account, it is very important to have an estate plan in place. After your death, decisions must be made about your debts, bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, vehicles, jewelry, retirement accounts, insurance proceeds, securities dividends, and even pets. If you want a say on who will receive your assets and how or when they will receive them, putting a plan together is necessary.”
If you have children, McCann says having a will is critical, if for no other reason than to name guardians for your minor children. “In the absence of a will where you appoint a guardian, the State will decide who should care for your children after your death,” McCann says. “Part of our responsibility as parents is to protect our children and provide a safe future for them. By naming a guardian in a will, you can control who provides that protection and safety for your children, if you are no longer able. Equally important is the need to have financial and health care powers of attorney appointed to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to do so.”
“Tragedy isn’t part of anyone’s life plan,” says McCann, “However, young adults, rich and poor, with and without small children, die every day. The real tragedy is that most of them fail to put a plan in place stating their desires for guardianship of their children and distribution of their assets. This leaves a tremendous burden on the surviving spouse or family.”
For more information on estate planning, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and Elder Law. We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on Estate Planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate, 1031 Exchanges, and related matters.
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