There's always a new reason you can invent to avoid planning your estate or creating your last will. You may hope to add new members to your family or think about acquiring new assets in the next year or two, such as a vacation home. Surely, you tell yourself, it's better to wait to have that all handled before starting to create a will or estate plan.
In reality, your family and assets will always be in a state of flux. Babies are born, while other people leave via divorce or death. If you wait until nothing in your life is going to change to create a will, you won't ever get around to this critical task. If you plan to marry soon, have children or own substantial assets, such as a house, you should take the time to plan your estate now. You can always update it in the future.
What happens when you die without a will
If you die without a will, you have died intestate. Every state has their own approach to this issue. In Pennsylvania, the law provides for the passage of assets to specific heirs. The law looks at whether you have a spouse and children, whether those children were your biological children or stepchildren and even situations where the deceased has no spouse or children.
If you have a spouse, he or she will probably end up splitting the estate with your children or even your parents unless you have a will in place. Creating a last will and thorough estate plan protects you and the ones you love from needing to go through probate court or split assets with distant family members.
An estate plan does more than allocate assets
One of the main purposes of an estate plan is to ensure that your assets go to the people you want after your death. In some cases, that could be family, while other people leave assets to friends, charities and even someone who agrees to care for a pet after your passing. A well-designed estate plan can ensure that your assets get allocated as you wish. It can also address issues such medical decisions and even authority to handle financial matters if you become incapacitated.
Creating a limited power of attorney for specific medical situations can provide you and your family with peace of mind. For example, if you experience a car accident or a stroke, a power of attorney could allow someone to make critical medical decisions and handle your financial matters until you recover. An estate plan can also include one or more trusts created to reduce tax risks from the estate and protect certain assets or individuals, such as children or grandchildren with special needs.