It’s always good to have a plan for whatever you’re going to do. And as Ben Franklin famously said, nothing is sure but death and taxes. Most of us don’t know when we might die. It’s better to have an estate plan and not need it anytime soon than not to have one if you do need one. There are many good reasons to prepare an estate plan. Here are my top five.
Deciding how your assets will be divided: All of us have an estate plan, whether we prepared one or not. If you haven’t, the state has an estate plan for you. The plan is called intestate succession, and you assets will be divided according to state law. For many of us, the state’s estate plan may not be the one you want for yourself. With an estate plan, you get to decide how your property will be divided when you die.
Caring for loved ones with special needs: Many of us are caring for a loved one – a child, a sibling, or someone else – who have special needs and cannot adequately care for themselves. A special needs trust allows you to provide for your loved one’s needs even when you are no longer around. Public benefits, such as Medicaid and SSI, don’t cover everything, and inheriting outside a special needs trust can affect those benefits.
Defining the members of your family: Families come in all shapes and sizes, and blended families are common. How the state would treat your family under intestate succession may not be how you want to provide for your loved ones. Some of your closest loved ones my not inherit anything under the state’s plan for you.
Providing for business succession: Are you a small business owner? Like many business owners, you have probably thought about who you would want to run the business if you weren’t around. Providing for business succession in your estate plan will protect your family and preserve your business legacy.
Deciding who will raise your minor children as their guardian: Without an estate plan, a court will name who cares for your children if you die. That person may or may not be the one you would choose. With a plan, you can name the person you want to raise your children if you were no longer around. In fact, if you live in Maryland, a will is the only way to ensure the person or persons you choose will be the guardian(s) of your children.