One of the most commonly believed fallacies about estate planning is that creating a plan is a form of planning for death and, as long as you are young or healthy, estate planning is not an immediate priority. Nothing could be further from the truth! As one April 20, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal reminds readers, "There's no time like the present to make sure all your estate-planning ducks are in a row."
Why is this so important and so urgent? Because estate planning is much more than establishing what happens after you die; it is also about documenting a clear set of instructions for what happens if you're still alive and cannot speak for yourself.
That's why some estate planning needs are universal. If you are in a serious accident and suffer major injuries that prevent you from managing your affairs, or perhaps from communicating at all, you need to have the proper documents already in place that give the person you want the authority to pay your bills, manage your investments, approve needed medical procedures or even authorize the termination of life-prolonging medical care.
With no plan in place, both you and your assets could be in significant risk. With no will, your assets will be distributed at your death according to your state's intestacy laws. These laws may give part (or all) of your wealth to an estranged relative, and will definitely give your loved ones to whom you're not related (either by blood or marriage) absolutely nothing. With no powers of attorney in place, your family may be forced to go to court and pursue a legal guardianship or conservatorship, which can be expensive and stressful, just to make decisions on your behalf. Your doctors may be forced to continue providing you with life-extending care, even though you have no hope of recovery and such care is against your wishes, if you don't have a living will.
So, why is estate planning important? Because it gives you the ability to take control of a great many decisions both during life and after death. And why act now? Because no one knows for certain what the future may hold, and only a proper plan can give you the assurance that, whatever tomorrow brings, you'll be prepared and your family will be protected.
This article is work product of UPG America and intended for general information purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. UPG America is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.upgamerica.com.