Why is Having a Will So Important

It’s a question I am asked all the time by young adults who are just getting started with their life. When someone dies without a will, their assets are distributed according to a statutory formula that doesn’t specifically take into account their wishes and unique circumstances leaving their loved ones to deal with the details of settling their estate. Without a will, their estate is settled with the supervision of the court and a court appointed person called an executor or Personal Representative.  The executor will make decisions regarding your children and your possessions for you through a process called probate. This could take months, or even years, and add to your loved ones’ grief. It’s important to note that not all estates must go through probate. If it is considered a “small estate”, it doesn’t require court supervision to be settled. Don’t Be Like Most Americans: Get a Will Less than half of all Americans have even the most basic estate planning documents, and experts say that seventy percent of all Americans don’t have a will. It’s difficult to understand why so many voluntarily give up their freedom to decide what will happen to their assets when they die. However, it’s easy to get busy with your everyday life and make excuses why you put it off for another day. Before you get distracted with other priorities, think about how important you are to your family and answer these questions. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, then you need a will: Do I care what happens to my children when I die? Do I...

What About Estate Planning If You Never Married?

What do you do about estate planning if you never married? When you’re married, estate planning generally seems quite simple. Typically, the spouse who dies first leaves everything to the surviving spouse. When the surviving spouse passes on, the estate usually goes to the children. If you don’t put any estate planning in place, and you never married, then Texas intestate succession laws dictate what happens with your estate. The probate court will follow Texas laws. With no spouse and no children, the estate goes to the surviving parents and is divided equally. If you have no surviving parents, then your estate goes to your siblings and their children and is divided equally. If you had no siblings, then the estate passes on to more distant relatives. Estate Planning If You Never Married: Disadvantages of Intestate Succession There are several disadvantages to intestate succession. The main one is that you have no say in how your legacy is passed on. You may not even know the distant relatives and would have other preferences about who gets your estate. The other disadvantage is that determining an intestate estate requires more time and expense, which means less of the estate remains to be passed on. How Many Individuals Never Marry? It may come as a surprise, but the number of Americans who never marry is on the rise. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2014 there were 107 million Americans who were 18 years and older that were unmarried. This was 45 percent of all U.S. residents who were 18 and older. Of these unmarried individuals, 63 Percent who were 18...

Estate Planning over the Holidays

Estate planning over the holidays is probably something you haven’t considered. Yet, many families take vacations and have family get-togethers over the holiday season. After all, the focus is typically on families during this time of year. Parents often don’t want to have the conversation about care preferences for their last days or how they want to pass on their legacy. Likewise, children don’t like to think about switching roles when the time comes for them to take care of their parents. But think about this. The holidays arrive, and you’re off to visit your parents who have dementia, Alzheimer’s or some debilitating physical condition that has left them incapacitated. If you failed to have the estate planning conversation earlier, you’ll struggle with knowing how to care for them and carry out their wishes. If they had their presence of mind, they would regret putting you in this situation. When you’re seeing early warning signs of forgetfulness or failing health in your parents, consider initiating the conversation to ensure estate planning is in place. Advantages of Estate Planning over the Holidays Loved ones are gathered together. Sometimes the holidays are your best opportunity for bringing together family members, who live in different parts of the country or world. With everyone together, it’s a convenient time for parents to tell their children about a trust, will or directive to physicians (living will). This conversation can assist your family in knowing your plans. Taking stock at the end of the year. The end of the year is a good time to take stock of any needed changes and make sure you...