There are plenty of reasons to plan your estate, from avoiding probate to reducing taxes. But aren't those just a means to an end? People don't do their estate planning because of words like “probate assets.” They do it because of words like “son” and “daughter.”
In fact, one could argue that to create a plan that's equipped to fulfill its purpose, you've got to “start with 'why' instead of immediately marching into 'how.' ” With that in mind, here are eight good reasons to get your estate planning started.
- You want your kids to experience the world
You want them to study abroad, go on a mission trip or backpack in another country. You want to know they'll be able to share in some of the experiences that made you who you are, or that you yourself dreamed of doing.
- You don't want them to live with Aunt Zelda
She's a charming woman and you love her, but that doesn't mean you want her to raise your kids.
- You want your family to inherit everything you leave them - not just a fraction of it
If you pass away without writing a will, the probate court can decide who gets what. Maybe your wishes are an exact copy of the default procedure in your state - but are you willing to bet on that?
- You don't want that fantastic painting to leave the family
If it's a valuable asset, they might want to sell it. If it's not, they might want to toss it. If it's important to you, make sure they know.
- You want to give your kids a better life than you had
Most parents want that for their family. Every day, you make calculated decisions on your kids' behalf, from how many portions of greens they get in their diet to where their college funds will come from. What they'll have after you're gone deserves no less thought.
- You don't want them to get spoiled
If you expect to leave your kids a large chunk of change, you'd probably like to know they're not just going to blow it all on hats.
- You want peace of mind
"Americans think that death is optional," wrote author Jane Walmsley. Of course we know it's not; still it can be a hard idea to wrap one's mind around. Good news: estate planning has been shown to reduce death anxiety.
- You don't want your family to end up fighting
The best way to avoid hurt feelings and the animosity they create is to lay out a clear game plan for them in your absence. You want your end of life to bring your family closer together - not to create division.
As you can see, estate planning isn't just about “maximizing the tax-free transfer of wealth,” as one article said. It's about protecting your family, the things you'll leave behind, and the future you hope to help them build.