Thursday, May 01, 2014

Thursday Thirteen

Estate planning is something that everyone should do, but the majority do not. It's an important part of being a grown-up and taking care of responsibilities.

Even if you think you have few assets, you probably should have at the least a will, a power of attorney, and an advanced medical directive. There are other documents that might benefit you in your particular circumstance.

Here are 13 reasons to do estate planning:

1. If you do not leave a will, then your assets go to your next of kin as defined by your state laws. Maybe these aren't the people you want to have your things.

2. You may want to leave specific burial/cremation/disposal instructions. Maybe you want to leave your body to science. You need to write that down someplace.

3. We all, every single one of us, are at risk of being in an accident, having a stroke, or incurring some other debilitating issue that would leave us unable to make decisions about our personal well-being and that of our family. Documents outlining who gets to make those decisions in your stead are helpful.

4. Maybe you have a disabled relative or family member who needs ongoing care. A will can provide a trust for them to ensure that they are properly cared for.

5. A will would ensure that your family members would not fight over who gets what.

6. Wills and other documents can cut down on various fees, such as probate taxes, bonds on your executors, or other costs, if you waive them in the documents (varies by state).

7. You can make sure that your cousin or nephew gets the prized deer head or piece of jewelry or whatever it is you want to leave him/her.

8. Estate documents can protect children from previous marriages.

9. You can establish trusts for your children or young relatives so that they can't throw the money away. You can request that the money be used only for education, for example, or to purchase a home.

10. These documents discourage challenges to your wishes when done correctly.

11. Advanced directives allow the doctors to turn off the life support, or to keep you on it if you want to lie there and be a vegetable until they come up with a cure for whatever ails you.

12. Another type of "estate planning" that might not be so obvious would be an autobiography or some other story of your life. These documents might pass along your moral code, for example. Some of these are called ethical wills. While not legally binding, this document could preserve your story for you.

13. If you have children under the age of majority, you can name a guardian. Otherwise your children become wards of the state in the event both parents die.

Honestly, having these documents created is one of the most important things a person can do. Numerous websites explain how to do it and you can do it yourself if you wish, using forms. I've even seen the forms at office supply stores. You would need to take them to a notary for signature and usually they require additional witnesses, but most banks can take care of this for you for a nominal fee. It is best to have an attorney draw things up and take care of the documents for you but it is not necessary; the law will recognize a totally handwritten will, too, for that matter.

If you haven't taken care of this very important business, I urge you to begin working on it soon. You never know what the world has in store for us, and it's always better to be prepared.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 342nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. A very timely message, especially in this day and age.

  2. Flinch. Yeah, it's been a decade or so since I drew up a will. Things have changed. Guess I better deal with it.

  3. I don't have one but have written down my wishes. Sounds like a good idea to at least get a form filled out and have it notarized.

  4. I'm always surprised by how many people don't have wills. They're fairly simple to do.


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