Many people are reluctant to think about their eventual demise and put off developing an estate plan as long as possible. Delays in drafting estate planning documents cannot prevent the inevitable, though, and people who fail to plan for the future risk running out of time. The dangers of procrastinating when it comes to preparing your estate plan are significant, and it is smart for anyone who has yet to develop a plan to contact an attorney promptly.
The most significant danger of procrastinating when it comes to preparing your estate plan is that you will die or become disabled without a plan in place. Revocable living trusts, a common estate planning tool, allow people to dictate how their assets will be managed in the event of disability and then disbursed when they die, among other things. Without an estate plan, a person is deemed intestate, and their property will be divided in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws. In New York, this means that if you are married but do not have children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. Similarly, your children will inherit everything if you are not married. If you are married and have children, your spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of your estate and half of the balance, with the remainder going to your children. (This is not often what clients tell me they want to do.)
The intestacy laws do not take into account the length of relationships or allow parties without legally defined relationships to inherit from an estate. For example, many people marry for a second time in their later years, after their first spouse has passed away. If they die without a Will, their new spouse could inherit a large portion of their estate, which may not be what the person wants. Similarly, stepchildren that were not legally adopted, companions, and other people that may be important to a person do not have any rights to a share of their estate once they die, absent a Will or Trust. If you have minor children, putting off developing an estate plan can impact them as well, as the court will need to appoint them a guardian if you die without naming a guardian in a Will.
The failure to develop an estate plan in a timely manner may not only impact how your affairs are handled after your death, but it can also affect your quality of life in your later years. Health Care Proxy designations are an important part of estate planning that grant people the right to make important decisions for you should you become unable to do so. In other words, you can grant a person (the Health Care Proxy) with regard to your healthcare decisions if you are unable to make them yourself. As such, putting off developing an estate plan can lead to economic harm and adverse health consequences.
Contact an Attorney Regarding Your Estate Planning Needs
People often think they can put off developing an estate plan until a later date, but delays can have devastating consequences. If you live in the Southern Tier and would like to learn how a Revocable Living Trust, Will or other estate planning documents will benefit you, we can help. Contact Roth Elder Law, PLLC at 607-962-6162 today for a consultation.