On Halloween, most people are willing to think about death, at least in a whimsical way. Considering our own mortality is a weighty job, and many people put off making an estate plan, to the detriment of their loved ones.
Our legal system does provide a default plan for individuals with no estate plan, which is handled by the Probate Court. Read on to discover why the Probate Court is not the ideal solution for most families.
What Happens if I Don't Have an Estate Plan?
1. Long Delays. In California, the Probate Court can take an average of 12-16 months to administer an estate and distribute its assets. Not only does that mean making your family members wait for their inheritance, it may also leave them scrambling to cover end-of-life expenses, like medical bills and credit card debts.
2. Unnecessary Costs. Between court costs, statutory attorney’s fees, appraisers fees and the like, your estate will spend about 5% of its value going through the Probate Court process. In other words, five percent of your hard-earned assets will be lost before your loved ones can ever benefit from them.
3. Family Infighting. Having an estate plan does not guarantee that no one will fight over how to distribute your assets. But, if your wishes were never officially documented, there is reason for debate. Family relationships are complex, and at a time of grieving, it’s much better for an attorney to walk your loved ones through a seamless plan than to ask them to present themselves in a public court setting.
4. Unwanted Guardians. If you have minor children at the time of your death, the Court will do its best to judge what relatives or friends would be the best permanent guardians. The tendency is to lean towards family first, which may not always be your preferred outcome.
5. Homeless Pets. Many pet owners don’t know that without advanced planning, pets who lose their owners will likely be taken to a public shelter, where the euthanasia rates are staggeringly high. Other family members may not be willing or able to take in the pets, due to personal financial constraints, allergies, or incompatible lifestyles.
A comprehensive estate plan including a revocable living trust will prevent your family from having to endure the Probate Court Process. You have the opportunity to choose trusted individuals to help distribute your assets in the way you would want, considerate of diverse family relationships. You can name the individuals you decide are best suited to raise your children and care for your pets. Find out more about estate planning with LifeLadder by downloading our Estate Planning Checklist below.