Everyone in New Jersey has heard at one time or another that they should have at least a will. Without an estate plan, the state will decide who inherits an individual's assets after they die and even who will be given custody of any children. Even so, a large percentage of Americans do not seem to be in any hurry to prepare for incapacitation or death.
Different people have different reasons for not preparing an estate plan. Those reasons range from simply not getting to it to not wanting to think about their own death. These reasons may seem valid at the time, but in the end, it only creates a multitude of problems for family members who are left behind.
A will allows the maker to distribute his or her assets in the manner in which they desire. If someone has a trust, he or she has even more control over how assets are distributed and may also gain additional tax benefits as well. A trust could also allow family members to avoid a costly and time-consuming probate.
In addition to distributing assets after death, an estate plan can provide for a person's care in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated in some way. Not only elderly people need financial and health care powers of attorney. Unexpected events such as car accidents happen every day in New Jersey, and without these documents, families could waste precious time obtaining the right to make critical health care and financial decisions for a loved one.
Having an estate plan may give the maker peace of mind, but these documents are more for family members than for the individual. In times of high emotional stress, such as death or incapacitation, family members may be grateful to know exactly what their loved one wants. Giving this gift to them could make all the difference.
Source: Forbes, "Americans' Ostrich Approach To Estate Planning", Richard Eisenberg, April 9, 2014