It is important to have an estate plan in place to avoid dying “intestate”. If you have not executed a will or a trust which states how you want your estate distributed at your death, then you are said to have died intestate. Without an estate plan, your property may end up in the hands of unintended beneficiaries and may be subject to unwanted fees, taxes and probate costs.
If you do not have a will or a trust, then the inheritance laws (laws of intestacy) determine how your property will be distributed. If you have no heirs that qualify for distribution according to state law, then your assets will be taken by the state. That is why it is important to have an estate plan even if you have no immediate relatives. An estate plan gives you the option to give your assets to whomever you choose. Otherwise, the state will choose for you.
There are many estate planning tools. The two most common are wills and trusts. Sometimes a will is the best choice for estate planning and other times a trust is more advisable. Generally a will is preferable when the estate is so small that there will be no need for formal probate or most assets are owned by husband and wife with a right of survivorship. A trust is necessary when there are young children who may be beneficiaries or where the estate is large enough that it needs to be tax protected and under certain other circumstances such as a second marriage or where a beneficiary has certain types of mental or physical restriction.
The DeWitt Law Firm helps clients with their estate planning need. We discuss the specifics of their family situation with them and advise them of the best estate planning tools to use for their needs. After arriving at an estate plan, we help our clients with its implementation by drafting the necessary documents, and advising them about funding any trusts created as a part of the plan. We also probate estates and litigate estate related disputes.
DeWitt Law Review on Estate Planning Issues: