We make plans all the time. We plan what to wear, what to eat, where to go on dates or vacations, which neighborhoods to live in, or what kind of car to drive. But less than half of Americans have taken the steps to plan what will happen to their estate when they die. When LexisNexis conducted a survey, less than half of the respondents said that they had a will, which is the most basic estate planning document. Furthermore, less than one in four said that they had a Living Will or document to direct what happens in when they are ill or injured and cannot speak for themselves with doctors. Only one in five of the respondents said that they had a trust, which is a comprehensive estate plan.

The reasons for not having an estate plan can vary. Some reasons have been stated to individuals do not feel that they have sufficient assets to do the estate planning. Others have felt as if they were not old enough. Ten percent of the respondents have said that they do not want to think about it. One or all of these reasons may sound like how you view estate planning.

When a person dies without an estate plan, a will or trust, this is known as dying intestate. When this happens, as it did with Aretha Franklin and Prince, the state’s intestacy laws dictate how the estate will be passed. However, many individuals do not understand that the state’s intestacy laws are the same for everyone, are inflexible, or causes issues for blended families or families with special need individuals. There is little your loved ones can do when this happens. Your loved ones will have to wait why the probate court decides what will happen to your estate according to the intestacy laws. When singer and songwriter Prince died without a will, 45 people came forwarded and claimed that they had an interest in his estate. The court will have decided who in addition to his six siblings is entitled to receive anything from his estate. This will cost the estate time and money in reaching this decision.

Taking the time to plan for what will happen to your assets, who they will go to and what steps will be taken to care for your family when you die can speed up the process and allow for the flexibility that you and your family need. With a will or trust, you can provide unequal shares to your children, disinherit a child, donate to a charity, leave a share to stepchildren, or provide for a long-time friend or caregiver. If you have a special needs family member, you can create a special needs trust upon your death to assist in providing for the care of that family member without eliminating any government assistance that may be received.

When Aretha Franklin died, she left four sons and one of them had special needs. Her $80 Million estate cannot be used to assist in providing for that child’s care until the probate court has determined what her assets are and how they will be distributed. There is nothing anyone can do to speed up the process for the welfare and needs of her special needs son. He will just have to wait.

If you want to avoid the turmoil and costs of probate that Prince and Aretha Franklin’s families are enduring, then you need an estate plan. Estate planning is varied as the flavors of ice cream. Plan to today to consult with an attorney about what options are available for you. We are ready to take that first step with you. Schedule your free 15-minute telephone consultation with our Client Coordinator here.