National Estate Planning Awareness Week is October 17th-23rd. In honor of both National Estate Planning Awareness Week and Halloween, we thought it important to share a few “Scary Statistics or Reasons” people do not have a Will or Estate.
It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. A 2004 poll issued by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that two-thirds of Americans over the age of 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement, and nearly one half of all Americans are unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k) plan.
70% of Americans fail to plan because they lack awareness of the consequences of not having a plan in place. Some consequences include difficult and costly guardianship proceedings, the inability to determine how you are cared for during incapacity, costly and prolonged probate processes after death, not caring for your loved ones in the way you would prefer, and having the distribution of your assets dictated by state statute, and even the possibility of your minor children being placed in foster care until a guardian can be appointed by the courts.
62 percent of clients fail to plan because they are under the assumption that estate planning is only for the wealthy. If you have any assets or any children, you have a need to plan. Estate planning is used to protect consumers and their loved ones of all ages and at all stages of life.
Here are some Scary Reasons we’ve heard about why they do not have an Estate Plan:
- I am single. Guess what? By not having a will, you allow the state intestacy statute to dictate where your things go. And in case of in capacity, you do not get to designate who will make decisions – financial or medical – for you. An estate plan can do all of these things and more.
- I am young and will live a long time yet. While this may be the case, we unfortunately never know when or if we will become incapacitated by random accidents. You should plan and ensure your loved ones can help you in the best way possible as well as ensuring they are taken care of.
- I’m afraid that if I plan for it, I will die or become incapacitated. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this can happen even if you do not plan. Wouldn’t you rather make sure you have a plan in place to cover your needs and those of your family members?
- My children are too young to inherit anything. This is a twofold problem. You need to have a mechanism in place that allows your children to inherit should you pass away that provides for your children in the way you design, not dictated by guardianship laws and court processes. Also, through planning you can designate who will be the guardian of your minor children and who makes financial decisions until you decide they can receive their inheritance outright. Why leave it all to the courts?
- I am not wealthy so I do not need an “estate plan.” If you do not have a lot of wealth, you may not need tax planning but you still should have an estate plan. Estate Planning is the ability to control your assets during your lifetime, to plan for how your assets and your health will be used (and by whom) for your benefit during incapacity, and to determine to whom, how and when your assets will be transferred to your loved ones at your death. And that is something EVERYONE needs.
So take advantage of Estate Planning Awareness Week – contact an estate planning attorney to discuss what estate planning is and how you can benefit and get peace of mind from the estate planning process.