Louis Pasteur, a 19th century French scientist, famously stated, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” It’s not generally pleasant to think about the end of your life and most people are too busy living their lives to make plans for what will happen after they pass. But the truth is—that day will come for us all and creating an estate plan now will allow you to control and design the details of your legacy. Here’s why:
If you become deceased without a proper Will in place, your estate will be divided according to intestate laws. That means the law of your state will decide, by statute, which of your relatives inherits from you and how much. This might result in family members you really wanted to provide for, not receiving any inheritance at all, while other relatives, who perhaps you had no intention of leaving money or assets to, may inherit a significant portion.
In South Carolina, if you pass away without a Will, have a spouse and children, the State has determined that your assets will be divided 50% to your spouse and 50% to your children. Very few of my clients are happy with this arrangement. Creating an estate plan that accurately reflects your wishes eliminates these unfortunate circumstances and allows you to control the legacy of your estate.
It is not uncommon for individuals to draft their first Will once they become parents. Similar to the concerns mentioned above, if you do not designate a guardian for your children in the event of your death, the state government will make that decision after you pass.
Even if your minor children are older, it is not too late and still important to make your intentions known in a properly executed Will.
Perhaps you have a very sentimental or valuable item that you want to entrust to a particular person after you pass away. In a Will, you can make that wish known. If you pass away “intestate” (without a Will) in South Carolina, your valuable items will be divided according to the wishes of the Personal Representative (Executor) of your estate, or could even be sold. Said Personal Representative will be chosen according to state law.
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of drama surrounding inheritance. If you do not have a Will, family and friends might be in disagreement about how you wanted your estate to be divided. Or, perhaps your Will is very old and the circumstances of your life have changed drastically—if your Will has not been updated to reflect the changed circumstances of your life, this can also create conflict for those you leave behind.
Additionally, having a Will can make the probate process smooth and less expensive. Without a Will, your Personal Representative would have to petition the Court to be allowed to sell your Real Property. Of course this slows down an already lengthy process and will increase attorneys fees.
Do yourself a favor and your loved ones a favor by making your wishes clear in a properly executed Will.
If there is a charitable organization close to your heart, you can designate money or assets to be donated to that charity in your Will.
Be sure to note that simply writing your wishes down on a piece of paper in your house will not necessarily result in those wishes being carried out after you pass. A Will must be properly executed and an estate planning attorney can help you develop an estate plan, and draft and execute a Will.
If you do not have a proper Will or want to make changes to your existing Will, the estate planning attorneys at our firm will be able to guide you through the process, so you can focus on living your life, while knowing you have a responsible estate plan in place that accurately reflects your wishes.