One of the great misunderstandings that many people have in your position when it comes to the creation of a will or trust is that it is only necessary to do so if you have a great deal of money or assets to your name. To me, this is a completely justified approach to estate planning and end-of-life planning in general. When we see on television or in the movies any person who has gone through the estate planning process is usually someone who is older and who seems to have a lot of money. What type of scene from a movie am I envisioning? Let me walk you through it now
Consider a circumstance where the main character's wealthy grandfather has just passed away. All of the characters in the movie are sitting inside an open attorney’s office surrounded by diplomas, legal books, and mahogany bookcases. Everyone is anxious to learn more about what was in the old man's will. It could be that grandchildren, children, an ex-wife, and a much younger widow are among those cast of characters. Everyone is anxious to hear what was in the will because the gentleman never shared its contents with anyone during his life.
The next thing you know, the attorney reads the deceased gentleman's will, and pandemonium breaks loose. Some people are upset about what is contained in the will. Likely, almost everyone but one person is upset. we usually see the grandchildren, children, and ex-wife cut out of the will in favor of the young and pretty widow. It doesn't matter if the two of them have been married for a very short time. All that matters is that the will passes property to no one besides the new wife. This upsets the children and grandchildren and elicits a smirk and an eye roll from the ex-wife.
Maybe it is just because I grew up watching television and movies in the 1990s that this type of scene always gets a chuckle out of me. However, what we need to discuss in today's blog post is whether you need to reach the level of wealth as our hypothetical grandfather in this fictional movie scene. Do you need to be an extremely wealthy person to even consider having a will or trust set up for yourself? If not, why do regular people like us need to have wheels and trust? That is what I would like to cover in today's blog post from The Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
Our attorneys understand that they don't teach the basics of wills, estates, and trusts in high school and college. As a result, the information in this blog post may be completely new to you. We just finished talking about how most of our education on this subject comes from movies and television shows. If you feel overwhelmed or like you do not know where to begin on this subject, then join the club. Most people in our community across the state of Texas would fall into that category. The good thing is that you are taking the opportunity you must learn as much as you can about estate planning and end-of-life planning in general.
A setting like this blog post is a great place for you to start your journey. However, I would not read a couple of blog posts and call it a day. Fortunately, you have an opportunity to learn a great deal about end-of-life planning Both on the Internet and from trusted sources otherwise. I think it is a great idea for you to contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan once you finish reading this blog post. In a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed estate planning attorneys you can learn more about end-of-life planning, what you can expect based on your circumstances, and have your questions answered. From there, you can operate with much more confidence and peace of mind when it comes to making decisions at our best for you and your family moving forward.
For members, a reality of estate planning and end-of-life planning is that none of us know the exact moment in time that we will come to the end of our lives. This is a stark reminder that given enough time we may all be able to figure out what to do with our state planning situations. However, since none of us know exactly how much time we have left we must take every opportunity available to us, while we have it, to engage in estate planning If that needs to be a focus for this season of our lives. With that said, let's discuss why all of us need to consider the end of life in estate planning no matter our financial situation.
Why having an estate plan is important for all of us
You have probably already guessed that our position on the subject is that every adult needs to have some sort of a state plan in place. Otherwise, we would have a very short blog post and there would not be much information for you to learn about today. However, I don't want to merely share with you what should be included in an estate plan. Rather, I want to share with you why an estate plan is important and how it can impact you and your family on a very basic level. Hopefully, by doing so our reasons will hit home and you will know compelled to act when it comes to this subject.
The foundation of our “why” when it comes to estate planning does that have to be wealth preservation or anything having to do with money specifically. Rather, I think that concepts like setting an example, establishing a legacy, and being intentional are all very valid reasons that transcend simple methods of disbursing money to whom you want after you pass away. Preserving wealth is incredibly important. You can change your family tree for the better by doing so. However, sometimes the lessons that you passed down to later generations that do not involve money are just as important.
Just because you don't have a lot of money, or even any money, does not mean that you should not have an estate plan in place moving forward. If you have been thinking more and more about an estate plan but we're not sure which way to proceed then let today's blog post be The motivator to push you towards doing something proactive about your situation when it comes to estate planning and the end of life planning period this is as opposed to being reactive and waiting until it is too late or until a time when you are unable to take concrete steps towards protecting your family and your legacy.
What is an estate and why is that important?
Again, I think just about every term utilized regarding estate planning conjures up visions of wealth and grandeur in most of us. When I say the word “estate” you may have in your mind a large home on leafy, grain property set out somewhere in the country. However, when we are talking about estates we are talking about the financial details of your life, both in property and debts, that is in place before your passing. Even if you are not wealthy you have an estate. This state will need to be dealt with one way or another after you pass away. The question for you and those around you is what is going to handle the settling of that estate- a probate court judge or your estate planning documents. If it is me in that situation, I would prefer to have some autonomy and control over the division of my state rather than allow a probate court judge to potentially do so for me.
Lacking assets is no excuse for not having an estate plan. We need to get past this notion that estate planning is for the wealthy. Rather, we must understand that even if you do not own much property and may have more debt than you do property it is still important for you to have an estate plan that helps to control what happens to your assets after your passing and gives your family some Peace of Mind from a financial perspective once you do pass on. This allows them to focus their attention on grieving and family matters rather than financial issues related to your passing.
How do you want your children to remember you?
Probably the people most impacted by your passing as an adult would be your children. Anyone out there who has already lost a parent can tell you that the time immediately after that parent's passing can be a rather raw in a difficult time. To have to deal with unpleasant financial matters during this time. Adds insult to injury and take away from the grieving process. The last thing that you were children who want to do during this time is focused their attention predominantly on attending to financial matters regarding your life. Trust me when I say your children will not want to engage primarily in matters related to your checkbook. Rather, they want to spend time remembering you in the impact that you had on their life. This is what I mean when I talk about legacy and legacy planning. All of us have legacies. You don't have to be wealthy to have a legacy worth passing on to future generations.
Even if you do not have a lot of money, you can encourage smart imprudent decision-making by having an estate plan. Put yourself in the position of your children and even your grandchildren. Accounting for your assets and debts in an estate plan even if you do not have much in your bank account shows that you are forward-thinking and responsible. Being able to show that you act intentionally, have goals, and generally are considerate of yourself and those around you is a great legacy in and of itself. This goes well beyond having financial wealth and poor assets to the passed down in terms of legacy building. Do not discount how important the decisions you make now can be to your children and grandchildren. You can establish a positive precedent in this regard by getting involved in estate planning.
The lessons that you implement within your estate plan and simply engaging in the process can also be communicated to your children and family members during your life. Going back to the example that I used at the beginning of today's blog post, the people who choose to have an estate plan but not talk to their family about it are making a significant mistake in my opinion. Rather, when you create an estate plan such as a will you should discuss that will with your family while you still can. Do not leave it up to a family attorney, executor, or another person. You can be the one to communicate your end-of-life plan to your family. This gives them certainty and then lets you address with that any concerns you may have about leaving property to anyone specific person. Persons that may have issues with your will even choose to change their life course and put you in a position where you would feel motivated to update your will to reflect those life changes.
Something that I have seen people do throughout the years that I think is commendable is to take the time to write letters or even record videos for their family members and friends to be dispersed at their passing. These end-of-life lessons can be great tools for family members to use in their daily lives even after you are gone. Most of the time these letters and videos have nothing to do with finances or the estate planning period either, they are messages about faith, family, and the things that are most important to us. The hopes and dreams that you have for your family can be expressed in meaningful ways through letters and videos.
What about the personal property that you own?
State planning takes into consideration more than just the planning surrounding large assets like real property, family homes, and investments. Rather, estate planning can also take into consideration items that may have little actual value but a great deal of personal and family value. I am thinking about any type of piece of personal property that you might own that was passed down to you from prior generations. Photographs, books, the family Bible, and other collectibles can be specifically passed down to a person or persons within an estate planning document. It is this type of emotional value that can be a part of your legacy if others see that you took the time necessary to dutifully plan out how these property items would be divided and dispersed at the time of your passing.
Imagine being a member of your family only to find out that a family heirloom was tossed aside, donated, or even thrown away after your passing because no one knew where or what it was. It's not like you discuss family heirlooms and history with your family members every day or even every time you see them. As a result, your nieces and nephews may have had no idea about a specific family heirloom that you had intended to go to them after you pass away. As a result of having a will, you can account for items like this and ensure that the property ends up with the people you want. Attaching a personalized letter with the item is a nice touch that you may be able to add to the experience.
How estate planning can impact your children
If you are reading this blog post and have children who are under the age of 18 then you need to seriously consider what you want to happen with your children after you pass away. I am envisioning a situation where you, unfortunately, pass away while your children are still under the age of 18. By having a will, you can choose to appoint a guardian for your children that would be able to care for your children before they reach the age of adulthood. The decision as to who your children will end up with would be left up to a judge if you fail to account for this important aspect of your life. Much more than attending to matters related to your wealth or even leaving a legacy, this is a practical and incredibly important responsibility of yours as a parent. By planning for your children, you are combining your values and your family into one document. This is not only responsible but a legacy in and of itself.
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 within today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate plannning 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 Texas estate planning as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a probate case.