Although we live in the most advanced society in human history, we still have some of the same problems that have always plagued mankind. One of those problems: we often fail to take care of our most basic needs and instead focus on trivial or less-important tasks.
Estate Planning is one of the most basic legal needs individuals have. Yet, even with the broad availability of legal counsel, research reveals that over half of Americans still don’t have a plan in place. If you’re one of those Americans without a plan, you need to get one. Here are 3 reasons why:
- The Law Doesn’t Know (and Doesn’t Care) About Your Wishes: If you die without a Last Will and Testament in place, the law has a “default” plan that gives your assets away to your next of kin. The default plan does not take into account your relationships with those people, your wishes, or even specific concerns related to them.
- Real World Example: When you were young, you have a child with a significant other. The child moves away with the other and you don’t have a close relationship. Later in life, you get married. If you die unexpectedly without a Last Will, your property is split between your spouse and the child (*even if the child is comfortably supported by the other parent and doesn’t need anything from you).
- Blended Families Complicate Matters: If you’re one of the many Americans living in a blended or non-traditional family, you may find that there are legal implications to your family arrangements. Perhaps you were previously married or have children from a prior marriage. Maybe you live with (or are married to) someone with children from a prior marriage. Maybe some of these children are minors. The main point here is that if you live in a situation where you (or your spouse) have children from a prior marriage, they can potentially inherit along with your spouse. If those children are minors, their other natural parent typically has the right to speak for them regarding their property interests.
- Real World Example: You were previously married and had a child. You divorced and now are re-married with another child (a child with your second spouse). If you die without a Last Will, your spouse and child from your prior marriage split your assets (but if the child is a minor, your ex-spouse may have a right to speak for your first child).
- Having a Will is Usually Simpler to Probate: Without going into gross detail on probate law, you should generally understand that having a Last Will and Testament may be simpler and less expensive to probate than a situation where you have no advanced planning done at all. While some state laws vary, the law of Texas provides that if you have a Will that calls for “independent administration” of your estate, the Court will generally allow your personal representative to work through your property and creditor issues without being supervised by the court. While there can be exceptions, it is generally easier and less expensive to probate a simple, self-proving Will that calls for unsupervised administration rather than having no planning at all.
- Real World Example: In our law office, the attorney’s fees and expenses for a simple probate are about half of what they are when we assist clients on estates with no advanced planning (and even when there are no disputes involved). Any dispute can raise the costs exponentially.
Contact a qualified attorney to work with you to do your basic estate plan. Our firm frequently works with clients ranging from young families with modest estates to business professionals with complex trust estates. We want to help you easily and efficiently resolve your estate planning issues. If you would like more information, call us today.
ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at [email protected].
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.