Many younger people think that estate planning is only for the very wealthy or the very old, and so they put it off. Many of these people continue to put it off for years simply because they don’t want to think about all that estate planning implies.
This kind of attitude is a mistake, and it can lead to some bad situations for their families and loved ones. The best way to explain why is to explore what happens when a person becomes incapacitated or dies without any kind of estate plan in place.
Power of attorney and health directives
Estate planning isn’t concerned only with what happens after we die. Some common documents such as powers of attorney and advance health directives are intended to take effect when a person is alive but, due to injury or illness, unable to make important legal, medical and financial decisions. These documents lead to a smooth transition by appointing a relative or trusted friend to make these decisions for them.
Under Illinois law, a person who dies without a will is said to die intestate, and their property is distributed according to the state law of intestate succession. First, the probate court must appoint someone to take care of the process. This is usually a close relative, but it may or may not be someone the deceased trusted. This person must settle the estate by paying off debts and distributing assets according to state law. If the deceased left a surviving spouse and child, the law of intestate succession requires that they get the whole of the estate. If there is no surviving spouse or child, the law has a somewhat complicated formula for tracking down living relatives.
The result can be very different from what the deceased would have wanted. Even when it reflects the deceased’s wishes, the process can also be time-consuming and expensive. The cost comes out of the estate, meaning there is less to go around when it comes time to distribute the assets.
A gift for loved ones
It’s common to think that estate planning is just about giving money to loved ones, but there’s more to it than that. As we have discussed in this blog post, estate planning can save our loved ones a lot of worry and frustration. That’s a great gift to give them, even for people who don’t have a lot of money to leave behind.