What if you died tomorrow? Have you ever thought about that? If so, you probably didn’t focus on it for very long as the thoughts of one’s own death, especially a surprise death, can be depressing or at least disconcerting. But if you died tomorrow, what happens to your family, your possessions, your debts, and your legacy? If this is so hard to think about, as theorized here, maybe that’s why less than half of people who need a will, have a will. The will or Last Will and Testament, if well written and planned, can avoid a lot of problems that would occur after death without a will. Conversely, a badly written will can cause a lot of problems after the death of the signer of a bad will.
If you died tomorrow, what is your plan? Do you have a trust? That could be the best and easiest for your situation. Do you have a will? That could be good, and it works for most people. Do you totally lack a written estate plan? That could be OK depending on your station in life or if you’re OK with the surviving family doing the work or litigation of resolving your intestate estate.
As a guideline, the property and debts of the deceased person are known as the “estate.” The decedent with no property may not need a will as there would be no property to give to anyone under a will. The property and concerns of the decedent with a lot of property, like houses, cars, businesses, retirement accounts, investments, tangible possessions, and life insurance payouts, are often best served by a well-planned, well-written estate plan with a trust.
What if you were incapacitated tomorrow with a short-term visit to the ICU or a persistent coma? Is there a plan where someone can answer health care questions or financial questions for you if you are unable to answer for yourself? As life gets complicated fast, accidents by nature are sudden, and there are more hospital check-ins than check-outs, you would want to plan for incapacity with the financial power of attorney documents and health care documents that allow an agent to make your decisions during incapacity. Or not. As said, most people don’t have these documents which are standard documents established at the time a person makes an estate plan with a will or a trust. Guardianships and conservatorships are complicated, expensive and litigated matters that occur when an incapacitated person lacks standard health care and financial estate planning documents.
If you have a business, how will your business survive tomorrow if you do not? Is there a plan for business succession in your estate plan? Does your estate plan need a corporate entity to best carry out the distribution of estate assets or the business of the deceased? Do you own a business or real estate assets and lack a will or a trust?? If so, then get on it!
The legacy you leave behind is shaped, organized and established through the estate plan you make during life. Without a written estate plan, your distribution of legacy is controlled according to the rules of intestacy and the judge of the probate court. Though you cannot personally enjoy your legacy, your estate planning or the lack of it can either add to or take away from the enjoyment of your legacy by your surviving family or beneficiaries. The enjoyment of your legacy or the litigation over it is what will be remembered as your legacy.
Estate planning and the handling of probate is often assisted by attorneys who focus on and specialize in the wills, trusts, estates, and probate legal practice areas. This attorney’s job in these practice areas is to make the client’s lifetime estate planning, or the resolution of probate issues for surviving family, as easy as possible.
Peace of mind is necessary for the enjoyment of life. Everyone’s lifetime is limited. Spend the effort with your estate plan to achieve peace of mind and you just may end up increasing your happiness, lowering your stress, and extending your lifetime. Ultimately nothing is worth more than time. Enjoy it peacefully while you have it.
Contact an Expert
If you have any questions about creating a last will and testament or need help with estate planning, contact Atlanta’s expert estate planning attorney, Robert S. Meyring, today to request a consultation.