Estate planning is something most people fail to prepare for during their lifetime as it is often viewed as a daunting or even morbid task. The failure to complete this task can have unexpected consequences and impact your loved ones on a very personal level. At the bare minimum, it is recommended that an individual execute a will. A will is a legal document which provides instructions as to how you would like your estate distributed upon your passing. It is a tool that allows you to determine who will inherit your property and specifically what property that person will inherit from you. If you pass away without a will, your property is distributed under your respective state’s intestacy laws. Those are the laws in place which determine how your estate will pass if you have not taken the time to prepare an estate plan on your own during your lifetime and may not distribute assets in the same manner you would have if you had executed an estate plan.
Failure to execute an estate plan during your lifetime can lead to additional complications and unnecessary expenses related to the administration of your estate. Family and friends may dispute or argue over who they believe should be appointed as executor of your estate and regarding the administration of your assets (who gets what), which results in the accrual of expenses and fees. Executing a will helps to minimize these costs and fees and reduce the length of the probate as the will protects your estate from a greater amount of legal challenges.
Another big area where issues arise relates to minor children. If you pass away without an estate plan, the court will have to appoint a guardian and/or conservator for your child and the person the court appoints may not be the same individual you would have selected had you created an estate plan. This too can result in months, if not years, of litigation and expenses if parties are arguing over who the court should appoint as guardian. This leaves your children in limbo rather than having guardianship of them go directly to an individual of your choosing.
To avoid the unintended consequences of failing to execute an estate plan and to learn more about estate planning options please contact our office at (602) 377-9369 to speak with an experienced attorney.