We’ve all seen it in the news lately. The meticulous Prince died without a will. The claims on his estate are already beginning to roll in, from siblings and relatives to those claiming to be his children. Without a will, Prince has no legal way to control his assets beyond the grave, and instead leaves that control up to the state.
What happens now?
Without a will, his estate goes to probate.This is not a rule just for the rich and famous; it applies to everyone. If you fail to plan, the state will take control for you. And in many cases, the state’s rules will not be how you imagined your assets being divided after you are gone.
In probate, your loved ones will have to battle for your estate. It can be costly, time consuming, and create conflict in the family, not to mention what happens in probate is available to the public. While Prince’s probate battle may have just begun, we can expect to see it drag on for a long time, just as we have seen in other famous cases. This can happen to your family as well. Leaving control to the government, instead of yourself, may leave your estate to unintended heirs.
What’s in a will?
A will is a simple legal document which describes how you want your estate to be dealt with after you die. There will be a period of time in which people can contest the will, but after this, if no one contests, all wishes will be carried out as you wanted.
This can save your loved ones time, money, and conflict during a time when they are already struggling with their own grieving.
A part of a bigger plan.
Wills, however, are simply one tool in the grand scheme of estate planning. You need to carefully consider your how all parts of your estate will be passed on and to whom, making the transition as smooth as possible for your heirs. While this process is intricate, it is possible with proper guidance.
For example, have you thought of who your beneficiaries are? Have you made sure your assets will be passed down their bloodline, should something happen to your main beneficiary? Have you considered the taxes your heirs will have to pay on the estate when they get it? Can they afford that payment? What about privacy? Wills are public documents. Have you considered trusts, which are private? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to take a moment to consider them, and then sit down with someone you trust to help you prepare.
There are so many facets to the estate planning process. Yes, it is an intimate and uncomfortable topic, but you’ve worked your whole life to build up all that you own. You’ve built a life which is more than just material things, but people you care about as well. You want to take care of your loved ones after you’re gone. So think about it. Who do you want to have control of your life’s work– you or the state?