Hey Parents: No Estate Plan is Not a Good Plan

Parents that fail to planMost summer plans do not include drafting a will and testament. Mowing a lawn choked with weeds and overgrown with grass is more likely to be tackled than considering your final wishes.  According to the American Bar Association, 55 percent of Americans do not have a will or other estate plan in place when they die. A survey by the online legal service Rocket Lawyer shows that families are equally lax in planning: about half of all Americans with children did not have a will in 2014.  Families with children should balance summertime fun with the sober but necessary task of preparing an estate plan.

The Denver Post says that the consequence of having no estate plan that is there's no guarantee who’s going to get your assets. The article, titled “How estate plans protect family assets far better than a will,” also says that you can be placing your children at risk. They could end up in Child Protective Services or in the custody of someone you wouldn’t dream of parenting your kids.

"If you don't have an estate plan, you have a 'plan' written by the state," the article states. That means that you're relying on the state to decide what happens with your kids and your assets. It means that your family will be required to go through the courts, and probate may take months or even years, according to the American Bar Association. Most states have waiting periods for creditors to respond and during which the probate estate can’t be distributed—and that's only if an individual's affairs are in order. Anything hairy means delays and more work.

Depending on the state, probate can be expensive. In some states it can cost between 5 to 7 percent of your estate. Similarly, an estate planning attorney’s fees sometimes scare folks away. However, completing an estate plan on the web or through a lawyer who charges only a few hundred dollars to set up a basic will often leaves too much to interpretation.

The article advises you to understand how assets are titled and how beneficiaries are designated—the two most critical and least understood concepts in estate planning.

One more benefit to planning your estate with a qualified estate planning attorney versus a do-it-yourself online form is that your attorney will help you update your plans as laws change and keep in touch with you throughout your life. Your online will won’t tell you if you need a change or modification. You should update your estate plan at least every three years or when you experience a big life event, like a death, birth, marriage, or divorce.  As you live your life, make sure your estate plan reflects the needs and wants of your family.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.  However, proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project.  Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.

Reference: The Denver Post (June 15, 2015) “How estate plans protect family assets far better than a will”

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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
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Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.