Every once in a while, Congress gets things right as they did in 2008 when they declared that October 19– 25th would become National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Congress notes that, “careful planning can prevent family members or other beneficiaries from being subjected to complex legal and administrative processes requiring significant expenditure of time, and greatly reduce confusion or even animosity among family members or other heirs upon the death of a loved one.” This acknowledgement is a great way to honor my father, who would be celebrating his 99th birthday on October 19th. Dad passed knowing his affairs were in order. This designation is also a great tribute to my partner, Julius Thompson, who would have celebrated his 50th birthday on October 18th. Julius passed away on May 3rd, but his family is very grateful for the planning we accomplished.
It is estimated that 56% of Americans do not have any form of an estate plan or critical decision-making documents in place, such as a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization, Directive to Physicians, or Guardian for Minor Children. As House Resolution 1499 affirms, “It is estimated that over 120,000,000 Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death.”
Furthermore, there is over $50 Billion in unclaimed money/assets in the United States. House Resolution 1499 explains, “Many Americans are unaware that a lack of estate planning and `financial illiteracy’ may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.” Meaning your assets could possibly default to the state upon your death. Unfortunately, a handwritten will with your signature is not enough to save your loved ones from a court battle over your assets.
When one thinks of how hard families work to create a secure future for their children and grandchildren, the number of unprepared Americans and unclaimed assets is especially staggering. The idea that a lifetime of hard work can get tied up in probate court or never delivered to its intended recipients is heartbreaking. This is one of the reasons why estate planning is so important and why Congress supports a National Estate Planning Awareness Week.
Estate planning encompasses the growth, conservation, and transfer of an individual’s wealth through the creation and maintenance of an “estate plan.” The purpose of estate planning is to develop a strategy that will maintain the financial security of individuals through their lifetime and will ensure the intended transfer of their property and assets at death, while also taking into consideration the unique circumstances of the family and the potential costs of different methods.
Take some time this week to review your estate plans, making sure all assets are accounted for and documented, all critical decision-making documents are in place, and that your loved ones know what your wishes are, and how to implement them, in the event of your incapacity or death.
As I always say, “You Only Die Once – You Better Get It Right©”
©Will Morris 2020