Monday, February 7, 2011

Estate Planning FAQ: "I really don't have anything, so I don't need an estate plan, right?"

Estate Planning FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions:

“ I really don't have anything, so I don't need an estate plan, right?”

No, usually that's wrong. But read on.

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear about estate planning and Wills. The answer is usually, no, that's not right. Rarely though, it is possible to meet someone who really doesn't need a plan.

Let's explore this question further. Let's start with the thought that estate is not a question of how much you have (money or property) but about how much you care about 1) yourself; 2) your family; and 3) your decision making power. Beginning with this thought makes it easier to understand why most people really do need estate planning.

Let's assume that you are right and you have little if any property. If you answer any of these nine questions with “yes”, you need an estate plan:

1. Do you have kids?

2. Do you have any life insurance?

3. Do you care who raises your kids if you died unexpectedly?

4. Do you care who would control your children's money from your life insurance if you died unexpectedly?

5. Do you care who makes decisions for you if you can't make them for yourself?

6. Do you have anything that you want to leave to a particular person, or where what you do have goes if you died unexpectedly?

7. Do you care how you would be treated if you were in a coma?

8. Do you want to be an organ donor?

9. Do you have pets that to you are like your kids?

So how did you do with these nine questions? Did you answer any of them with “yes”. If you did, then you are proving that estate planning is not about how much you own.

Did you answer every question with “no”? If you did, then it is possible that you don't need an estate plan. However, I would still recommend you review these issues carefully before make your final decision.

If you did answer any of the nine questions with a “yes”, do you feel differently now about our frequently asked question? I hope so. I'll leave you with this quotation of mine:

Estate planning is not about how much you have, but about how much you care about those people and things you do care about.”

That one sentence sums up best why just about everyone needs some type of estate plan. In my over 32 years of practicing law, I have met less than a handful of people who truly didn't need even a simple estate plan.

That's all for this installment of Estate Planning FAQ. I hope you found this article informative and thought provoking. Please feel free to add your comments and questions. If you have a question that you would like to see addressed in Estate Planning FAQ, please let me know. Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg

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