Many people think that their financial/family situation is such that they do not need to do estate planning, so I’ve prepared the following discussion on some of the different kinds of people need to do estate planning:
- Parents with children: For parents, one of the most important issues in estate planning is thinking through what would happen in the worst-case scenario: the death of a parent(s) with minor children. The drafting of a will allows parent(s) to designate who they would want to have appointed as the guardian of one’s children, as well as to insure that the financial resources of the family be protected for the sake of minor children.
- Parents of adult children: For parents with adult children, there are often complicated issues at stake in deciding issues of inheritance, particularly when dealing with blended families. And for parents with special needs adult children, a one-size-fits-all-approach (in which each child inherits the same share of the estate), may not work to meet the ongoing differing need of each child. Effective estate planning enables the parents to think through these issues in advance, rather than letting an imperfect system of intestate succession make these decisions automatically.
- Co-habitating couples who are not married: Many couples may have chosen to not be legally married, yet have been together for decades. Without effective estate planning, the end result is seldom good, often with even tragic outcomes, especially in the LGBTQ community, of surviving partners being completely cut off an inheritance due to a lack of proper estate planning coupled with hostile blood relatives.
- Single people with no children: Without a will or a trust in place, the estate of a single person (who never had children) might end up being distributed to relatives who the person had little positive relationship through the convoluted process of intestate succession. Having a will or trust empowers single people to make their own decisions about how their estate will be distributed — including not only to relatives but also close friends or favorite charities.
- Creative people (artists, writers, musicians, etc.): Copyrights and other intellectual property are property in the eyes of the law. This means that if effective estate planning arrangements are not made, a creative person’s life work is at the mercy of the intestate succession process in which the state decide makes the decisions, which often results in valuable intellectual property being mismanaged or even ignored. See this article from Findlaw.com for more discussion on this issue.
- Anyone who has an online presence, including social media accounts: Oklahoma has enacted some of the first laws in the USA in the area of the inheritance of “digital property” (including social media accounts, etc.), but these default provisions may not fit your individual situation. Including issues of digital property in one’s estate planning arrangements empowers people to make their own decisions rather than leaving it up to the state to make these important decisions.
Fundamentally, estate-planning is about empowerment, by making it possible for every person to make their own decisions about how their property will be protected and distributed after they die.
The good news is that estate planning can be very affordable. My estate planning services start at $300 (for the drafting of a simple will) and I offer a variety of discounts which can reduce the cost even further. Please contact me for an appointment to discuss your options.