You’re not alone. Too many people procrastinate about estate planning. They’re busy, or they don’t think they own enough, or they’re not old enough, or they’re confused and don’t know who can help them. Then, when something happens, their families have to pick up the pieces.
If you own assets titled in your name and you don’t have a plan when you die, your estate will go through probate and your assets will be distributed according to state law—and that is probably not what you would want.
For example, if you are married and have children, each will likely receive a share of your estate. This means your spouse could receive only a fraction of your assets, which may not be enough to live on. Also, because state laws usually allow for the inheritance of property only by bloodline, an unmarried partner, special friend or favorite charity would be excluded.
If you have minor children, the court will appoint a guardian to raise them without knowing whom you would have chosen. It will also control their inheritances until they reach legal age, at which time they will receive the full amount. Most parents prefer their children inherit when they are older.
If you become incapacitated before you die, the court can take control of your assets and your care. If your assets are titled in your name, no one but the court will be able to conduct business for you.