Many people would rather not think about the end of their lives. Although it may feel morbid to do so, planning for your death is important. Doing so protects your family and loved ones. It also offers some guidance if you pass away unexpectedly.
Thinking of estate planning as an act of love helps many people warm to the idea. If you pass away without a plan for your assets, your family will be left to guess about your wishes for your estate. This can be difficult and cause unnecessary stress during the grieving period.
If you are just beginning the estate planning process, or are unsure whether it is time to begin, our team has the resources that you need to navigate estate planning and family law issues.
The timing of your estate planning will depend upon the types of tools that you wish to use. Those who utilize trusts will follow a different timeline than those who want to create a will.
It is important to have at least a valid will once you own property, have significant assets, or have children. A will can outline what will happen to your property and assets after you pass. It can also name guardians for your children or dependents if they are left without guardianship. A will can prevent children from being placed with unfit family members or in the foster care system.
If someone dies without a will, their assets go to their next of kin. If you are married, your spouse is your next of kin. If you do not have a spouse but have children or grandchildren, they are your next of kin. If you do not have any of these, your parents are your next of kin.
Having all your assets go to your next of kin may be fine. However, it does eliminate the ability to have power over where your assets go. Wills allow you to split assets among several loved ones. This is often more in line with one’s personal feelings and wishes.
If you are creating a trust, the timeline for your estate planning process will be delayed. Trusts are useful tools, but they often involve most or all of your assets. Many people wait until they are in retirement to create a trust.
Trusts are accounts in which a trustor (you) places their assets in an account that is held by a trustee. When the trustor dies, the assets do not have to go through probate. This is because the trustee is still alive and legally has control over the assets. This can save a significant amount of time and money. It can also keep assets in the hands of beneficiaries rather than the state.
You should have a will long before you have a trust. If you wish to begin the estate planning process, start with a will. Then, speak to your estate planning attorney about how to work toward a trust.
Estate Planning at Any Age
Many people falsely believe that estate planning is only for the elderly or retired. Although some formats of estate planning may require a more established estate, others do not. Wills are appropriate for all situations and estate sizes.
If you are over the age of 18, you should create a will right away if you have:
- Assets, such as a car or motorcycle
It is rarely too early to create a will, and most people can benefit from having one.
Q: What Happens If I Die Without a Will?
A: If you die without a will, the law categorizes your death as “intestate.” In these situations, your assets will go through probate court. The state may also seize some to settle your outstanding taxes and certain debts. After all these costs have been settled, the estate will be released to your next of kin. Your next of kin may retain all your assets if they choose, or they may distribute your assets to other loved ones.
Q: How Early Should I Make an Estate Plan?
A: It is important to make an estate plan as soon as you have children or amass significant assets, such as a significant savings account, a home, a car, etc. Wills are relatively basic documents. They can protect your children from being placed in unwanted hands if you should pass away. It can also make sure that your assets end up where you want them to be, rather than just with your next of kin. An attorney can help with this process.
Q: Does My Next of Kin Have to Redistribute Assets?
A: No. If you die without a will, or with an invalid will, your assets go to your next of kin. They are under no obligation to distribute the assets according to your wishes. For example, suppose that you had children, divorced, and remarried. If you die with an invalid will, your assets will go to your spouse. If they wish, they can leave these assets to their own biological family. They will be free to leave your children out of the equation entirely.
Q: Do I Need an Attorney to Create a Will?
A: It is in your family’s interest for you to hire an attorney to make a will. Although online programs seem enticing, they do not always create legally binding contracts. As a result, you may end up with an invalid will that negates all the effort that you put into creating it. An estate planning attorney can help you create a legally binding will. This can successfully carry out your wishes, protect your family, and offer peace of mind.
Contact Stange Law Firm in Columbia, MO
Our team at Stange Law Firm has many years of experience in both family law and estate planning. As a result, we can help you craft strong estate plans that ease your family’s stress in the event of your death. We see estate planning as an act of love for your family. Our firm is here to assist you in creating yours.
For more, contact Stange Law Firm.