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Happy National Estate Planning Awareness Week!

shutterstock_156185702Who knew?! I honestly had no idea that there was such a thing as National Estate Planning Awareness Week, but, in fact there is, and it’s the third week in October, established by House Resolution 1499 in 2008.

When I worked in the US Senate, I was particularly thrilled by National Ice Cream Day (the third Sunday in July) and when I worked in the California State Legislature there was one day when bikers from all over California rode around the capital to protest helmet laws (I’m not sure if that was an official day or not). But this, while not nearly as thrilling as either of those days, is still a good excuse to remind folks about the importance of having a plan in place and keeping it current.

The American Bar Association cites statistics that estimate 55% of Americans don’t have an estate plan. I’ve seen other estimates that over 120 million Americans don’t have an estate plan in place. Either way, that’s a lot of people.

So, in the spirit of the day, if you know of anyone who doesn’t have an estate plan (or, god forbid, you don’t), here are a few reasons why it would be a REALLY good idea to put one together:

  1. If you don’t write down what you want to happen after you die, the state has rules about who will receive your property, and they might not be the distributions you would have chosen.
  2. If you have minor children, and don’t nominate guardians for them, and die before they turn 18, a judge will pick their guardian, and the judge doesn’t know your family members like you do (or your sister-in-law).
  3. If you do not have Durable Powers of Attorney in place for health care and finance, your family will have to go to court to get a conservatorship to take care of your needs if you become incapacitated. This a public and potentially adversarial proceeding that can be easily avoided.
  4. If you do not have a living trust that’s properly funded, upon your death, a probate proceeding will be necessary to transfer your assets to your heirs. This is also a public proceeding, and its cost is a percentage of the value of your estate.