In September of 2008, Congress passed House Resolution 1499 to designate an annual period in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. This year, it starts on Monday, October 15.
It should be noted that 2008 was during the Great Recession. Most Americans were feeling the effects of recent economic crises, such as the downturn in the housing market, excessive consumer debt, the collapse of several investment firms, and many other factors. Policy makers were understandably concerned about the financial stability of the average American, both in the near future and long-term.
National Estate Planning Awareness Week was created because lawmakers felt it was in the country’s best interests to encourage individuals to have their financial affairs in order. Some of the impetus was the need to promote education about what estate planning actually entails.
The Congressional resolution stated, in part: “(a) poll commissioned by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants found that two-thirds of Americans over age 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement, and nearly one half of all Americans are unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k).”
Getting people to develop plans for protecting their assets made a great deal of sense in 2008. It still does.
Why you should have an estate plan
More than half of all adult Americans have no up-to-date estate plan, or even a basic last will and testament, according to the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils. Some estimates suggest that number may be as high as 60 to 70 percent.
You have probably heard the expression, “You can’t take it with you.” That means people need to decide ahead of time what happens to their possessions when they die, because we all have to go sometime. You might as well make arrangements now, and National Estate Planning Awareness Week is the perfect time to start.
An estate plan allows you to specify a strategy to protect your property and finances when you pass away, or if you are unable to manage them. Your estate plan can designate which family members, friends, or other recipients will inherit your assets, or who will be responsible for your care if that becomes a necessity. The importance of an estate plan is also for events other than death, such as an accident or illness that leaves you incapacitated. In any case, you need to make your wishes known in advance and legally documented.
Consider the risks of not having an estate plan
When someone dies without a will or an estate plan, the deceased individual is deemed “intestate” by law. That means the state probate courts have to get involved to settle affairs and decide what to do with that person’s assets. Probate is a legal process in which the court appoints an executor to administer the estate, based on assumptions of how the late owner would have wanted to distribute his or her property.
The probate process can take many months — or even years if the estate is complex and multiple heirs make claims on it. When the rock star Prince died in 2016 without a will, 700 people filed documents saying they were his descendants.
Having a thorough, secure estate plan eliminates the possibility of others attempting to claim your assets while providing greater comfort to your family and friends.
Let a qualified estate planning attorney guide you
Some people put off estate planning because they fear it will be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, but it really does not have to be.
Regardless of your assets or income level, it is critical to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. By designating which family members will inherit your possessions, you will spare them the pain and cost of a probate fight when the time comes.
Our experienced elder law attorneys at Cordell Planning Partners provide affordable smart solutions to help seniors with estate plans, wills, trusts, Power of Attorney documents, and other safeguards for your assets.
Cordell Planning Partners also offers complimentary educational workshops where we explain the various asset-protection programs, all in terms that are easy to understand.
To learn more, contact us today. You also can arrange to have a complimentary one-hour initial consultation to discuss your individual planning priorities.