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Estate planning: avoid it at your loved ones' peril

The problem with estate planning is that if it is neglected, it can come back and haunt the people you love. And if the plans are not clear, the same problem will exist after you are gone: those you love will pay the price.

"People think, 'Oh, I have a simple life,' but you have to understand (that if) you make a mistake and you have unintended results, you can't bring the person back to sign a new will," said an attorney in a recent news article about estate planning.

The lawyer is currently fixing the mistakes a man made to his $12 million estate with do-it-yourself software. He did not leave enough cash for executors to pay his estate's taxes, and that has in turn created strife among the heirs, delays and attorneys' fees.

A survey taken two years ago found that most Americans do not even have a will, which means they are leaving no plan for their families to use to decide how to distribute assets or care for dependents.

Many people are "afraid of the process" of writing a will and planning their estate. They often believe the cost of simple planning will be too high, not realizing that the cost of doing nothing can easily be much, much higher. Again, it's not the decedent who pays that cost; it's his or her loved ones who will bear that burden.

For some, a will takes care of their estate planning needs and their loved ones. For others, their needs are met more completely by a revocable living trust that enables their loved ones to avoid probate.

"One of the most loving things you can do," an attorney said in the article, "is not make people guess at what you wanted."

There are a number of powerful estate planning tools that can protect you, your assets and your loved ones all at the same time. Learn more about what makes sense in your situation with an attorney experienced in estate planning and the creation of clear wills, living trusts, health care power of attorney and much more.

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