Using Our Legal Rights for Estate Planning
“I know my rights!” That is one of those phrases we all like to have in our arsenal if we get into a struggle, particularly with the government or a financial institution. But another phrase that is just as appropriate, especially when it comes to the rights that the legal system gives us is, “Use it or lose it.”
As much as we malign lawyers and hold the government up for ridicule, there are a lot of laws on the books that are here to protect ordinary citizens like you and I. The real crime then is when we don’t make ourselves aware of those rights or fail to take advantage of them. Nowhere is the problem more glaring then when it comes to the laws concerning estate planning, wills, trusts and inheritance.
Any estate planning lawyer can guide us through the steps of setting up legally binding documents to make sure that whatever is ours when we do pass on to the next life through death will go to the ones we want to have it. Amazingly, many people just do not take advantage of estate planning laws and their heirs find themselves trying to take care of their loved ones wishes with no will in place to protect their property.
Maybe it would help to learn more about probate which is the way the state dispenses with your property if there is no will in place. Well, the news there is not good. Not only will the government dispense with your property by its rules without any regard or guidance from you how you want your property divided when you die, there are heavy taxes that they are happy to take for the privilege. There very idea that the government can take as much as ten percent of your estate during probate should send us all running to our estate planning lawyers to get the documents in place to make sure this does not happen.
There are lots of reasons people don’t like to plan for how their property will be distributed after they pass away. No doubt the biggest one is procrastination. If you ask most people who have significant holdings that should be protected by a will why they don’t go through that exercise, the answer is often, “I will take care of that when I am older.”
The implication is that if you are not elderly, you are certainly not close enough to the moment of death to worry about it. This is an amazing assumption when anyone who rationally knows how the world works knows that people just like you and me die in car wrecks, plane crashes or even just have sudden heart attacks at young ages and leave their loved ones to sort out the estate. So confronting that potential is the first step toward developing a mature approach to estate planning.
The heart of this procrastination lies in a dread of thinking about death. Most of us would like to believe we will never die when all evidence proves the opposite. On top of that, we don’t like dealing with lawyers, we don’t like thinking about our own mortality and we fear the expense of setting up a will. None of these are rational excuses for not putting these important documents in place.
Few of us would own a car without insurance. And we buy all kinds of insurance to cover our health, our home our life and our business. If we can just think of a will in that same light, we might be motivated to insure that our estate is properly distributed when we pass on. It’s just as important as any insurance, especially to your family and loved ones.