If you asked one hundred people what estate planning is, chances are the majority of them would say something like, “making a will,” or “deciding how to leave your money to people when you’re gone.” These things aren’t wrong, as far as they go, but they’re only part of a much bigger picture. Because so many people think of estate planning as about transferring wealth to the next generation, if they don’t have children, or think they don’t have many assets, they may think estate planning isn’t important for them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, if you asked the same people, “Who should make important decisions about your money, health, children, and future—you, or someone who may never have met you?” it’s likely that all one hundred people would immediately say that they should get to make the decisions for themselves. In a nutshell, that’s what estate planning is, and why it’s important: it gives you the control you deserve over the decisions that are important to you. If you don’t take it, that control might fall into the hands of a judge who’s never laid eyes on you.
Estate Planning is Not Just About Money
If you die intestate, Colorado state law will determine how your assets are distributed. Depending on how much you own, and to whom you’d like to leave it, this might not trouble you. But estate planning is about much more than money.
Estate planning doesn’t just determine what happens after your death. Nobody plans to become incapacitated, yet it happens every day. Depending on the nature of your incapacity, you may need someone to handle your financial affairs or make medical and health decisions for you. You should also consider what types of care you would or would not want if you had a terminal health condition, and make a living will in accordance with those wishes.
If you have minor children, estate planning simply is not optional. Your estate plan determines who your children’s guardian will be if you and their other parent are not available, makes arrangements to provide for their care until adulthood and beyond, and can even give them insights into who you were and what you wanted for them.
And, of course, if you do have significant assets or a business, estate planning is essential to minimize taxes, preserve wealth, and plan for the continued success of a business you’ve worked hard to build. A majority of family businesses don’t succeed beyond one generation; even fewer survive to a third generation. Business succession planning as part of an estate plan significantly boosts the chances that your family business will continue to thrive after you are gone.
Estate Planning: A Small Investment Yields Big Results
Another way to recognize the importance of estate planning is to envision the answer to the question, “Would you exert a little effort today to create a large benefit for the people you love in the future?” Most people would readily agree to do so. That small amount of effort is the call to an estate planning attorney and the few hours it takes to meet with the attorney and design and finalize a plan.
The large benefit is the peace of mind of your loved ones when you become incapacitated or die. Imagine their grief at your loss or serious injury; remember, if you can, how you felt when a beloved parent or grandparent died. Now imagine how much greater your loved ones’ anguish would be if they didn’t know what your wishes were—for your property, your business, even your children. It’s possible that your family members will disagree about what you wanted, and will fight about it. At the least, such infighting will lead to the dissipation of your assets; at the worst, it could lead to a permanent family rift. It sounds terrible, and for many people, it is. But it’s something that you have the power to prevent, simply by putting your wishes in a legally-enforceable writing.
The bottom line is, everybody needs an estate plan that gives them control over their future. We invite you to contact the experienced estate planning and probate attorneys at Davis Schilken at 303-670-9855 to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations in The Denver Tech Center and Golden, Colorado, to learn how we can help you.