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What will it cost me if I delay getting my estate planning done… or just don’t do it all?

It is human nature to procrastinate. All of us, at one time or another, have delayed in performing some tasks that we would otherwise prefer not to do. Whether it is mowing the grass, completing an assignment for school, or calling back that relative who always stays on the phone a little too long procrastination is something that almost every single one of us has dealt with in our lives. For the most part, procrastination does not cost us much more than peace of mind and the slight annoyance of those around us.

However, in some cases, the delays associated with procrastination can seriously negatively impact our lives. For so many of us, the idea of drafting and finalizing a will is so unpleasant to consider that we would rather beat around the Bush or avoid that subject altogether rather than complete the objective. State planning is something that most of us would rather put off to another day or even never complete. I can't imagine that estate planning would rank very highly on your list of most preferred activities to engage in.

With that said, like many of the important things in life, state planning is so critical to our lives that it should never be ignored or set aside for another day. The trouble with procrastination regarding estate planning is that we can think that we will have more time to complete a task such as creating a will or a trust but those additional moments in time are never guaranteed. Rather, the ability to complete an estate planning process depends in large part on our ability to tab sufficient time, mental energy, and resources to complete. Since these opportunities cannot be guaranteed it is best to accomplish what you can as soon as possible.

That is what creating a will is all about. Rather than waiting around and expecting the perfect moment to arrive, sometimes you'd have to create that perfect moment and simply do what you must do to protect your assets and provide for your family. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I'm going to share with you some information and perspective on the costs of delaying the creation of your estate plan or even not creating one at all. However, we understand that for you to go out and do something about here state plan you need to have a well-defined reason and motivation to do so.

This can sometimes be difficult to arrive at for some people given that you will no longer be with us when your estate plan becomes important. When you pass away it is your relatives, friends, and other potential beneficiaries that would stand to gain or suffer from your lack of planning. When it comes to building a legacy, this is what we need to be most cognizant of. The planning and execution of a good estate plan do not affect you but rather those around you.

What is estate planning?

Before we can consider the different methods of estate planning, we also must think long and hard about what it means to begin the process of creating one of these documents. For most of you reading this blog post, state planning means the creation of a will. Hey, a will is an estate planning document that states what your wishes are regarding how your property should be distributed upon your passing. This is a critical document for several reasons, not the least of which relates to being able to have some autonomy over how your property will be handled upon your passing rather than allowing the government to take control of the situation.

That is, of course, the other option before you. If you fail to create an estate plan such as the creation of a will then a probate court judge would have the ability to determine how your property will be divided and distributed at the time your case is filed in their courtroom. The Texas probate code contains various provisions related to the division of property at the time of someone passing. The judge would look to your heirs such as children and a spouse and then determine how your property should be divided.

I cannot overstate how different your property can be divided in a probate circumstance with a judge making those decisions versus how you may choose to divide the property up yourself through a wheel. The probate court judge will interpret the probate laws of Texas and then divide the property as follows. The judge will not ask the opinions of your family members or decide about who is most or least deserving of the property. He or she will simply divide the property according to the codebook and then move on to the next case.

While you will not be around to protest how the property is distributed you may have different views altogether about how the property should be handled at your passing. For example, suppose that you do not even want your property to be distributed to family members. If you have no spouse and no children then you may prefer to name different entities who could receive your property rather than leave the property to extended family members such as nieces, nephews, or cousins.

Do you belong to a church that you would like your property to benefit upon your passing? What about a charitable organization that you I have a good relationship with? All of these are viable options for you to choose from when it comes to dividing and distributing their property upon your passing. However, a family court judge would not go through your personal history and decide how your property should be divided in this way. Rather, he or she would simply follow the rule book and divide based on the laws of Texas.

Hopefully, this bit of information will show you just how much not having a will and not engaging in estate planning can cost you and those in your life. It is one thing to cost yourself money and assets. We've all been there where we made a mistake that was foolish or ill-advised only to find that that mistake cost us money. Think about a bad investment or decision that you made that you would like to take back when it comes to your finances. The same can be true when it comes to an inability or unwillingness 2 engage in estate planning while you have the opportunity. Do not waste the opportunities you have to better the lives of those around you.

Another important aspect of this discussion is deciding how you want to structure your estate planning to avoid paying taxes or even probate when it comes to distributing your property. For that reason, many people set up trusts as a part of their estate planning where you can potentially both avoid probate and having to pay taxes on property that is distributed. This can save your family time and money by not having to go through the probate process and instead they would be able to simply distribute the property upon your passing as overseen by the trustee of the trust. On the other hand, trusts can be cumbersome for many people given that every time you want to do something with property in the trust you have to get the approval of the trustee.

For this reason, delaying the creation of a trust can both cost you money and cost you sanity in that why not look into the issues associated with creating a trust you may put yourself in a position where you have lost precious time that could have been better allocated elsewhere. It is completely reasonable to have an opinion that you have so much important things to do in life that too spend time focusing on estate planning could be to the detriment of other things. While I would never tell you that prioritizing the things you do in your life is not important, it is also important to take care of the things that need to be taken care of right now. I think we have covered just how important estate planning is even if it is not always the first thing on your mind when you wake up every morning.

So, where does that leave us as we near the end of today's blog post? Hopefully, we have discussed some of the more important reasons why estate planning is important and what the consequences of the failure to plan adequately in this important area of your life can be. With that said, I understand how every one of us is in a different place as far as the need to plan for these types of events. Sometimes all it takes to be able to decide to finally move forward and begin the estate planning process is to contact and meet with an experienced probate and estate planning attorney. Without a doubt, meeting with a lawyer can help you synthesize the issues in your case and help you to better focus on what matters most to you and your family.

The first steps to take when beginning the estate planning process

I think that communication is one of the most important attributes of a strong family. No matter what your family looks like, or even if you don't have a family at all, being able to communicate openly and honestly with the people around you can make a tremendous difference in your life and theirs. As a result, I think that if you can begin the process of estate planning with the full knowledge and consent of your family then you will have greater Peace of Mind when it comes to the entire process from beginning to end.

You must ask yourself what kind of relationship did you have with money growing up and how did your family talk about this important subject? For many of us, our family simply ignored this subject of money or treated it like it was a forbidden topic. Many times, families only communicate about money in extreme circumstances such as after someone loses a job or a major bill comes into the household. These can be tense and extremely stressful moments and do not exactly make for the most constructive of conversations when it comes to money. If this was the type of upbringing that you had about money then you should consider yourself to be in the majority of people period from my experience, very few families discussed money on a rational or objective level. Rather, most families discussed money only when necessary and not at all on terms that can be productive and learning opportunities for children.

Understanding how your family approached this topic can inform how you need to proceed with your estate planning. Whether you know it or not how you were raised associated with money impacts your approach to this subject now. Rather than avoid this realization I recommend that you take the time to explore your feelings about money to better get a grip on how you want to see your property handled after your passing. No matter if you have a definite plan already or if you have never given the subject second thought, I think this can be a helpful exercise for you.

Once you have a good idea of what you would like to do with your money and property at your passing then you should share your thoughts with your family. Not only is this useful from the perspective of beginning to have a dialogue with your family so they are aware of your wishes, but it can also set a trend for your family to begin to have objective and reasonable discussions about money. This may have been the type of conversation that you wish that your family would have had with you growing up but never did. You can leave a legacy in terms of your actions in addition to finances by talking with your family reasonably about important subject matter like this.

Another benefit of speaking to your family about this subject matter now is that it avoids a potential circumstance where your family is left asking a lot of questions after your passing about why you decided to do whatever you did with the estate plan. We have all seen the movie where a deceased person will be read aloud by an attorney and the entire family almost has a heart attack about how the person in question decided to divide property upon their passing. There is always a great shock and a surprise when some distant relative, new wife, or other recipient ends up getting the lion's share of the person's estate.

Rather than put your family through this type of situation you can be completely honest with them during your life so that there are no misunderstandings or misconceptions about what will happen with your property upon your passing. Many times, informing a child that he or she is not in line to receive a great deal of property from you can be just what he or she needs to change their behavior and make improvements in their life. If you are considering leaving a child out of your will because you think that the property or money left to him or she would be destructive you could talk to him or her about it. If that child makes changes and improves the quality of their life you can always go back and change course and update your will to reflect the changes in your child's lifestyle.

Then, once you have discussed you with your family your intentions the next step would be to set your plan into action. You can meet with an experienced probate and estate planning attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to discuss your plans. No one is expecting you to be an expert in estate planning. You can share your thoughts with the attorney and allow our office to share with you our feedback regarding the plans that you have set into motion. From there, you can determine the best setup available as far as estate planning and what would be most advantageous for you and your family in the future. Our lawyers listen and then get feedback so that you can make decisions about what you know to be best for you and your family. This is how our office operates and will continue to operate. We serve people just like you in our community every day and we take a lot of pride in doing so.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed probate law and estate planning attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of estate planning as well as how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a probate case or other estate planning matter.

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