Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan
Some people believe that estate planning is only for the wealthiest of families, but nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone can benefit from an estate plan, one crafted and implemented by an attorney who focuses on this area of the law.
When a person passes away without a will or trust, his or her estate assets are distributed according to what is known as intestate succession. As a result, “who gets what” follows strict guidelines, set by each state, with no regard for the emotional relationships between you, your spouse, your children, and members of your extended family. What you would have wanted is irrelevant to the state. Your assets must be distributed, and the state has devised a formula to do so.
Consider the following example of what would happen if you died intestate in Maryland. Let’s say you were married with minor children when you passed away. In that case, your spouse would inherit half of your intestate property and your minor children would inherit everything else. Is this what you would have wanted? Probably not, but that’s what would happen—and it is just one example of how the state’s intestacy guidelines can lead to unintended, often undesired, consequences.
Medical and Financial Power of Authority
Another reason you need an estate plan is to make sure that a person of your choosing has the authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Without your own plan, someone will petition the court to gain control over your assets and medical care. This could well be a person you would never have wanted to make important decisions like these for you. The result? You may not receive the level of medical care you would have wanted. Conversely, you might be subjected to medical procedures you would not have wanted to keep you alive in an end-of-life situation. Similarly, financial decisions might be made about the management of your assets that you would never have taken on your own. In addition, reports and documents will need to be filed with the court and substantial costs will occur.
If you have minor children, you must also consider what will happen to them if something terrible happens to you and your spouse. An estate plan allows you to name people of your choosing—people you trust—to raise and care for your children if you cannot. Without a plan, the court will decide who has control over your children. The court’s decision could lead to your children being raised in a place and manner you never would have wanted.
Proper planning can also allow you to protect your assets against a wide range of threats, including the high cost of long-term care, lawsuits, creditors, divorce, and more. In addition, your plan can protect the inheritances of your children from these same threats when they become adults. It can even protect your heirs from making poor decisions if they are not mature enough to handle an inheritance on their own. Finally, your plan can allow you to pass your work ethic, values, and sense of responsibility on to heirs, as well as help you leave a lasting legacy.
Start Crafting Your Estate Plan Today
As you can see, having an estate plan allows you to take control of your affairs while you are alive and after you pass away. Which is why it’s essential that you’re proactive in creating an estate plan and making the necessary amendments as they arise. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer at The Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen can help you do just that.
Mr. Cohen has over 35 years of experience and dedicates his practice to assisting those in the DC and Maryland area construct comprehensive estate plans. We understand that planning for incapacity or even death may seem dismal, but the action you choose to take today can benefit you and your loved ones for years to come. Contact us today at 202-895-2799 for a free case evaluation.