Don't have a Will? You may be putting your kids at risk.
Many people push off the conversation of having to prepare a Will. Thinking about the possibility of death is not easy. The recent death of actress Anne Heche shows us that not having a Will can cause many issues with your children. Even if it is hard to think about, planning may be a better solution than the alternative.
What happened to the actress Anne Heche?
In Anne Heche's case, not having a Will before she passed away did place a burden on her children. This is a perfect example of why you shouldn't delay getting it done. Heche was divorced with two children from different relationships when she passed away. Her oldest son is 20 years old, but her youngest son is a minor. Although they are assumed to be her sole heirs, her older son is the only one able to administer her estate. He has filed a petition for a guardian ad litem to be put in place to protect his younger brother’s interests. The guardian ad litem may be a financial burden to Heche’s estate, and the costs of securing this professional will potentially reduce the assets available to her sons. Even though her oldest son is dealing with his mother’s estate, this is extremely difficult for someone to be dealing with at such a young age. Heche’s oldest son most likely will not be able to do this all on his own and will need the services of a probate attorney. This will likely further increase the costs of administering her estate and depleting how much is left for her children.
It has been stated that an inventory and appraisal of her estate are required to determine its worth and what assets she had. This process requires further professional involvement and fees that her estate must pay. Also, it is possible that the father of her youngest son may seek to intervene in the estate’s administration to ensure he is treated fairly. Litigation costs could increase quickly if there is any disagreement related to this.
Preparing a Will and other estate planning documents sooner rather than later can be extremely helpful to your loved ones. It will make legal proceedings much less complicated and expensive and keep your situation as private as possible. It can also make it easier for your family to know exactly what you want to happen to your assets and possessions.
If you pass away before doing your Will, your local state laws on intestacy will determine who qualifies as your heir and inherits your property.
In many states, if a person passes away unmarried, with children, then the children will inherit everything. However, in the case that a person had a long-term partner or was engaged, they may have wanted their significant other to inherit some of their assets. However, a “default” state law may lead to a different result. Or, if you have no living children, siblings, parents, or spouse, then your property may go to the government instead of friends, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Having a Will prevents either of these scenarios from happening.
Parents should consider the ability to choose a guardian for their children in advance.
One example is when the other parent is not living or cannot be located. In this case, if you do not plan your wishes ahead of time, multiple parties may step up after a person’s death, which could lead to dilemmas and arguments over who should care for any minor children. If this were to happen, a court may be tasked with making this decision, and it may not be what you would have wanted. This can lead to significant expenses, traumatic events for all involved, and a long, complicated process. Courts will generally try to appoint the individual a person has selected if your wishes are in a Will or other planning document.
The bottom line is that doing your estate planning before it's too late makes your wishes more likely to be honored and less likely that a court will decide what happens.
This is also true where you may be incapacitated and unable to voice your wishes. Anne Heche’s situation is not unusual and has happened in many cases. However, it is avoidable.
If you are ready to speak to one of our experienced lawyers about completing your estate plan, book a Strategic Planning Session at www.BookMyPlanningSession.com!