Do you have children under the age of 18? Do you own your own home? Do
you have a retirement account, such as an IRA or 401(k)? Or, do you have
a significant savings? If your answer is “yes” to any one
or more of these questions, you should seriously consider estate planning,
even if you’re in your 20s or 30s and in perfect health.
People are surprised to learn how many people never get around to estate
planning and at the very least, drafting a Will. More often than not,
people delay estate planning for the following reasons:
- They think they’re too young
- They are in excellent health
- They have trouble thinking about their own mortality
- They think they have “plenty of time”
Surprisingly, even some of the wealthiest people never get around to
estate planning. Perhaps one of the most infamous examples of this practice is Prince,
who died without ever drafting a Will. We can only assume this was probably
a decision Prince would have regretted had he known his life was going
to be cut short.
When people die without a
Will, it’s called “dying intestate.” In these situations,
the estate winds up in the hands of the probate court, who takes over
the task of handling the decedent’s estate. Once a probate case
is opened, the court appoints a personal representative to administer
the estate, which includes:
- Notifying the heirs about the probate case
- Handling any claims filed against the estate
- Paying the decedent’s taxes
- Paying off the decedent’s debts
- Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs under Tennessee’s
laws of intestate succession
If you die with a valid Will, the probate court would authenticate the
document, the executor named in your Will would be appointed by the court,
the executor would pay off your debts and taxes, and finally he or she
would distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries specifically
outlined in your Will.
While your estate would go into
probate whether you die with our without a Will, there is a key difference: When
you leave behind a Will, you can stipulate who gets what. Die without
a will and state law dictates who receives your assets.
For example, let’s say you haven’t spoken to your adult son
in years because he was convicted of a violent offense and when he got
out of prison, he went back to dealing drugs. If you’re single and
you die without a will, your felon son would inherit every dime of your estate.
Perhaps you’d prefer that money go to your widowed sister who’s
raising four children by herself, or perhaps you’d rather that money
be donated to your church. Without a valid will in place, your estate
would automatically be distributed according to Tennessee’s intestate
succession laws, even if it’s the opposite of what you would have wanted.
So, if you want to control how your assets are distributed, you should
start estate planning sooner than later. You just never know for sure
when an accident, an illness, or an unexpected, terminal disease might strike.
If you are interested in creating a will or a
trust, or both in Nashville, I encourage you to
contact my firm to set up a free consultation!