If you have not yet begun planning your estate, you are not alone. Statistics cited in a recent Forbes article suggest that more than half of all Americans are lacking even a basic will, let alone an in-depth estate plan. However, while procrastination is certainly common, it is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made with regard to estate planning. After all, the longer you put it off, the likelier it is that you will miss your chance to do it at all.
What happens if you die without a will?
Unfortunately, if you die without a will, there is no guarantee that your assets will be distributed in the manner that you would want or expect. Many people mistakenly assume that they do not need a will because they can rely on their family members to sort things out themselves when the time comes.
However, it is rarely that simple - no matter how trustworthy or good-natured your loved ones may be, there is still tremendous potential for disagreement if your heirs do not see eye to eye about what they believe your wishes would have been. This can cause additional heartache to what is already likely to be a difficult time.
These concerns apply not only with regard to the disposition of your assets after your death, but also with regard to decisions about how to handle your affairs, including medical treatments, in the event that you become incapacitated. You can communicate your wishes on these topics by including a living will, health care surrogate and durable power of attorney in your estate plan.
Probate may cause delays and consume assets
Even in the absence of major conflicts about how to handle your affairs, there are still legal stumbling blocks that can arise for your heirs if you die without a will. Florida, like other states, has a set of laws known as "intestacy" laws that dictate how a deceased person's assets will be distributed if he or she died intestate, or without a will.
The application of those laws takes place in process called probate. The more of your estate that must pass through probate, the longer your heirs must wait to receive any of your assets. In addition, because probate can be costly and is typically paid for out of the estate itself, it may reduce the amount of assets that your loved ones ultimately receive.
Start planning your estate today
People put off estate planning for a variety of reasons, including feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the process and unsure of where to begin. Talking things over with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer is often an effective way to overcome those hurdles and make the process seem more manageable. After talking with you to learn more about your circumstances and your goals, he or she can provide you with information about your options and guide you through the process of creating an estate plan that meets your needs and the needs of your loved ones.