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Not to be too much of a downer, but every day we leave our homes with a chance we may not return because of serious injury or death.
As 19th-century playwright August Strindberg said, “Death doesn’t bargain.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 33,000 people in the U.S. were killed in auto accidents in 2010. Another 2.2 million were injured and some permanently incapacitated. This means these folks left home and either never returned, or their lives were severely disrupted. And these numbers just reflect traffic accidents. Other tragedies happen, too. What if it happened to you? What would become of your dependent family members, property and finances?
Enter estate planning. In our “sandwich” generation, people of a certain age may be responsible for aging parents’, children’s and grandchildren’s physical and financial well-being. Estate planning is necessary for each of us. Nearly everyone has some person or properties that will need tending to after they no longer can. With an established estate plan, you know your wishes will be carried out.
In a 2009 Harris Interactive poll where 1,022 Americans were surveyed, the pollsters discovered that 50 percent had not planned for the distribution of their assets should the inevitable occur. Without an estate plan, your assets go into probate where the courts handle everything, and depending on the circumstances, it can get very expensive.
David Kelly, certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law with Burton Law Firm (offices in Sacramento and Roseville), advises, “For families with minor children, it is critically important to nominate guardians.” He stresses that it would be much less stressful for those left behind to seamlessly select a trusted family member or friend instead of having the family deal with possible competing interests in courts and with attorneys. “No matter how much money you have,” Kelly explains, “there are always issues that have to be dealt with, and with an estate plan in place it can be simple, efficient and effective.”
Why is it that we’re so hesitant to finalize our plans? Roseville Attorney Lynn Dean says, “Estate planning is not mandatory and most people just procrastinate.” She goes on to explain that many people are uncomfortable thinking about not being here and can’t seem to make those difficult decisions. “Some people need help understanding their options,” Dean explains. “They don’t have a good answer to who will get the kids or how to distribute their assets.” Dean knows it’s best for your family and heirs to leave clear instructions on what you want to have happen after you’re gone. “Timing is everything,” Dean advises. “It’s critical to complete these documents before you reach a point in your life when you can no longer sign them.” She adds that clients have a great sense of relief once they finish the process.
If you want to save possible heartaches, headaches and a whole lot of money, make an appointment to meet with a qualified estate planner. Once your plan is in place, you will feel much better.