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I don't need an estate plan, do I???

published January 3, 2020

by Laurie M. Boveington, Attorney at Law

Part 1 of a 4-part series

What legal task do most people put off doing? Preparing an estate plan. According to an August 2018 article in USA Today[1], Aretha Franklin and Prince both died without having executed a will. So did Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. Some of these people were young – in their late 20s. Others were older – Bono was 62 – but age has little to do with the need for an estate plan. And neither does the size of your estate.

What is the possible result of not having an estate plan? In the cases of both Hendrix and Marley, their families each fought over the estates in the courts for more than 30 years, according to the same article. You may not have a celebrity-sized estate, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need an estate plan.

Preparing an estate plan is one of the simplest, least costly things you can do to  protect your assets and give yourself and your family peace of mind. So why not just do it?

Most people just don’t want to think about it. It’s morbid. It reminds them of their own mortality. It’s distasteful. They are concerned about what their loved ones might think. They are worried about “that one family member” who will object and cause problems. They have an especially irresponsible family member, or someone with special needs. They believe their loved ones will fight over the estate. They don’t trust anyone.

There are a million and one excuses. But I can tell you that without exception, every estate plan client who has come to me wringing their hands, has left with documents that serve their needs and those of their families. Why? Because I specialize in digging into details that many clients may not even think to mention. I design a customized estate plan just for them. Then I watch the worry lines disappear from their faces, and hear them say they can now sleep better at night.

I can also tell you that those family issues, if they are to occur at all, will occur whether you have an estate plan or not. In fact, having an estate plan can help prevent some of those problems. If your estate plan is designed to include court oversight, the court can help keep your family members in line and make sure each beneficiary gets what you want them to have, nothing more and nothing less.

And if you do not anticipate any of those problems and do not need court oversight, then at least you have specific instructions in place so your loved ones do not have to play a guessing game.

[1] Mandell, A., & Blas, L. (2018, August 22). 7 legendary stars who died without wills: Aretha Franklin, Prince and more. Retrieved January 2, 2020, from

NEXT: Estate plan basics. What are the parts of an estate plan and what do they do for you?

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