Essentially every adult leaves an estate when they pass away. An estate is just a legal term describing the financial affairs you leave behind. Someone will need to pay your final bills, and someone will receive any assets left over. That may not mean much to you.

But it is important to realize that having a proper estate plan can not only reduce waste and ensure your wishes are honored after your death, but your plan can also protect you during your lifetime. To see why you need an estate plan, let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t have one.

If You Become Incapacitated, No One Can Help

A thorough estate plan can provide for your medical and financial needs if you are in an accident or get sick and are unconscious and unable to communicate. Without the right estate planning documents, no one can access your accounts, pay your bills, make decisions, or authorize medical treatment.

Eventually, a family member might be able to obtain guardianship to help manage your affairs, but the process can take some time and it is often restrictive and expensive in dealing with the court’s requirements. 

If you have prepared a health care surrogate designation and financial power of attorney documents, however, the picture looks different. You can authorize a friend or family member to speak with doctors and make healthcare decisions on your behalf with a healthcare surrogate designation. With a financial power of attorney, you can enable someone you trust to transfer funds, pay bills, and handle other matters such as legal actions. Unlike guardianship, these documents do not deprive you of any rights. They simply authorize another person to assist you when you need it.

No One Knows Who’s in Charge

When you die without an estate plan, a court will designate someone to handle your estate …eventually. Until they do, no one will be able to pay your bills or access any of your individually owned property. The person the court selects as your personal representative may be the last person in the world you’d want to be in charge.

With an estate plan, you can choose your own personal representative and if you set up a trust, you can designate a trustee to handle matters after you pass which can also potentially avoid a probate proceeding. You can ensure that the person you select understands what you want to happen and understands what they need to do. This will avoid unnecessary delays and expenses.

Your Choices Will Be Ignored

The law does not care which family members have supported you and which ones are self-centered spendthrifts. If you die without a will or a trust to specify how your assets should be distributed, Florida laws of intestate succession will determine who gets what assets.

Instead, you can create an estate plan to grant your property to those whom you believe deserve it. You can even set up a trust to manage the property you’d like to give to those who lack the money management ability to handle it on their own. 

Find Out What an Estate Planning Lawyer Could Do to Protect Your Future

Modern estate plans cover much more than in the past, and options can be tailored to your specific needs, whether simple or complex. Regardless of your situation, it is a good idea to talk to an estate planning attorney who can review any existing documents you have and develop a plan to reduce stress and wasted time and expenses in the future. Contact the dedicated team at Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A. to learn more about how we could assist.