While you are alive, you have the option to create an individualized estate plan that reflects how you want your estate handled upon your death. If you fail to create an estate plan, then you have effectively acquiesced to the “government estate plan“. By not executing a Last Will and Testament prior to your death, your estate becomes an intestate estate. An intestate estate is handled according to the intestate laws of the state where the decedent was a resident at the time of death. So what does the government estate plan include?
For starters, the government estate plan typically requires your entire estate to be handled through the legal process known as probate. This can tie up your estate assets for months, leaving then inaccessible to loved ones.
Part of the intestate process requires the court to determine who the legal heirs to your estate are. Your legal heirs may not be the same people that you wanted to leave your assets to. For example, your girlfriend of 20 years is not a legal heir in most cases.
The government estate plan also requires an inventory and valuation of your estate assets. It could also include selling estate assets, even if they had sentimental value to you. Other decisions the court may make for you include who administers your estate (for a fee)and who is appointed as guardian of minor children.
Finally, the government plan will often cost more in administrative, legal fees and often bonding fees than you would have spent creating your own plan that could have avoided this entire process.
Your Estate Plan guarantees your choices.