According to a 2017 survey, only 4 in 10 American adults have estate planning documents.Wills and estate planning are associated with old age, and it’s all too easy for us to convince ourselves that we can put off estate planning for decades to come. Unfortunately, avoiding conversations about death doesn’t actually ensure immortality, and none of us can know when estate planning documents might be necessary.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
If you die without estate planning documents in place, the state you live in dictates the order of succession for your beneficiaries. Although the government has a back-up plan to probate your estate, most people agree that they would like to be in control over the distribution of their own assets.
Quite aside from ensuring that you, rather than the government, control your assets, planning your estate also allows your family to prepare. The current executor of your will according to Colorado law may not be the person you trust most in charge of your estate–but more importantly, that executor may not be prepared for the sudden responsibility. Although no one wants to think about the death of a loved one, knowing the next step to take can be one less shock if and when they’re faced with a tragedy.
Do You Need Assets to Have a Will?
When most people think of estate planning, they picture a lawyer listing the deceased’s physical wealth–a house, family heirlooms, a car. As millenials creep into their thirties, fewer people are buying houses and more people face high debt. It can be easy to assume, therefore, that you have no estate to plan for.
While it’s true that your assets go towards unpaid debts before they’re distributed to loved ones, it’s unfair to assume only people with large amounts of wealth need a will. Planning for your death isn’t just about the dollar signs or physical objects you leave behind. Your children, your pets, and any other surviving dependents and loved ones all require looking after in case of your death. Having estate planning documents in place allows you to protect the people currently relying on you, regardless of the state of your bank account.
Most people know, at least intellectually, that they need a will. The hard part, however, is taking the next steps to plan for their death. Estate planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or frightening process. In fact, once you have a plan in place, the world ought to look a little bit less frightening. After all, this plan means that you and your loved ones are protected against the worst-case scenario and can go about your lives in peace.