Worth the Splurge
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USAA Magazine called Estate Planning the Number 2 “thing worth the splurge” in their article 5 Things Worth the Splurge (which can be found here: https://content.usaa.com/mcontent/static_assets/Media/USAA_Mag_summer_2011.pdf?cacheid=1483834888). In the article, USAA Magazine points out that there are multiple options for attempting to meet individual Estate Planning needs and goals, including do-it-yourself kits and Estate Planning Attorneys. However, the USAA Education Foundation is cited as having stated that Estate Planning “is a complex issue” and has recommended that Estate Plans be updated whenever a major life change occurs or the tax codes are revised. The article also states that “it might be worth paying an estate planning attorney to make sure you’ve covered your bases.”
I, of course, agree with USAA Magazine that Estate Planning is worth the associated costs. I also strongly agree that it is generally worth hiring an estate planning attorney to ensure that the Estate Plan is properly drafted and tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. However, I have to respectfully disagree with the characterization of the expense as a “splurge.”
Estate Planning is a necessity. The unfortunate, popular view about Estate Planning is that it is not a “necessity,” or is not necessary unless you are wealthy or elderly. This myth has led to the majority of Americans finding themselves in need of Estate Planning tools without any planning in place. A survey by Findlaw.com found (among other things) that: 55% of Americans lack even a basic Last Will and Testament to direct who inherits their assets; and 67% of Americans do not have a Living Will in case of incapacity, disability, or terminal illness. I have heard of previous studies which suggested even higher percentages (up to 70%) of Americans die without even a basic Last Will and Testament.
Individuals cite numerous reasons for their failure to plan: the expense; focusing on “necessities” because of the financial times; not being “old enough” to need Estate Planning”; not knowing where to begin; the list goes on and on. These reasons are simply invalid.
Basic Estate Planning can be achieved at a reasonable cost (yes, even with a qualified attorney). If you don’t want to spend the extra money for an “Advanced” or more sophisticated Estate Plan, simply inform the attorney you are working with that you want the basics and do not want to pay for more than is absolutely necessary. The attorney will likely advise you of his or her recommended Estate Plan and techniques for your particular circumstances and quote you the price therefore. If the recommended plan is too pricey, ask what simpler plans will meet your basic planning needs. At that point the attorney will likely inform you that although he or she doesn’t advise it in your situation for specific reasons, he or she can provide you with a more basic Estate Plan at a lower cost.
Estate Planning is a necessity! In tough financial times we all try to do everything we can to save money and cut our costs. At times like these many people think that the costs of Estate Planning can be put off or avoided without any consequences. Unfortunately, when the unexpected happens (whether it’s a sudden illness, incapacity, disability, or death) if you aren’t prepared there is no second chance to plan. Difficult financial situations should actually, logically encourage Estate Planning. Estate Planning can save taxes, probate and administration costs, and legal fees, thereby preserving a larger portion of your estate assets for your family and loved ones. If your family is experiencing tough financial times isn’t it more important now than ever before to ensure valuable resources are not needlessly lost?
Age and wealth have very little to do with the need for an Estate Plan. Of Course, as we get older we see our mortality as an increasingly present concern and therefore are more likely to seek out Estate Planning services, but age does not really make Estate Planning more necessary. Likewise, accrued wealth means that there may be additional benefits to Estate Planning, but the core benefits of having an Estate Plan do not change with wealth.
Some of the Reasons for having an Estate Plan:
- Decide how your assets are distributed at death;
- Choose the individual to administer your Estate and handle your final affairs;
- Provide for the wellbeing of your family;
- Nominate a Guardian to raise your children, and ensure that they are taken care of in a manner which you would approve of after you’re gone;
- Appoint an individual to control you assets for the benefit of your minor children or other heirs and beneficiaries;
- Ensure compliance with relevant moral or religious beliefs;
- Clearly set forth your wishes concerning medical and health decisions (potentially avoiding family stress and even litigation);
- Appoint a trusted individual to handle your finances and personal affairs in case of incapacity, disability, or illness;
- Ensure compliance with preferences for medical and end-of-life decisions, as well as preferred burial arrangements; and
- Set forth any unique wishes.
Many of these reasons are not luxuries, they are necessities and do not depend upon your age or financial situation. Without proper planning the state legislature and/or the Courts will “plan” your estate for you. The Government will reach into some of the most personal and important decisions you can make and dictate the results for you… If you don’t plan while you still can.
The starting point is simple… contact a qualified Estate Planning Attorney in your state today. Most attorneys will be happy to meet with you, explain your options, the benefits, the consequences of failing to plan, and the costs associated with failing to plan versus the costs of implementing an effective Estate Plan. I am always happy to get a call from a new prospective client, and I believe most other attorneys are too.
Take the first step, contact a qualified Estate Planning Attorney for a consultation. If you are a Virginia Resident, The Law Office of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC may be able to assist you with this.
Richard W. Hartman III,
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