You’ve worked hard to build wealth and leave an inheritance behind to your loved ones. But if you haven’t created an estate plan, you’re leaving yourself, your family, and your legacy vulnerable.
A recent survey found that only 33% of Americans have an estate plan, even though more than 50% said having one is important. If you die without an estate plan, the court system decides what happens to your assets — which may not align with your wishes.
We created this guide to show you how to start estate planning, even if you have no time.
Why do people put off estate planning?
Why do people delay creating an estate plan in the first place? The 2022 Wills and Estate Planning survey from Caring.com provides some insight. When asked why they don’t have a will, here’s what the survey respondents said.
- I haven’t gotten around to it (40%)
- I don’t have enough assets to leave to anyone (33%)
- I don’t know how to get a will or living trust (12%)
- It is too expensive to set up (13%)
Now that we know why you might be delaying estate planning, let’s discuss why it’s crucial to get your legal affairs in order sooner rather than later.
Why do you need an estate plan?
No matter how busy you are, you can spare some time for estate planning. Some of the reasons you need an estate plan are:
- Protection for your family: Creating an estate plan ensures your family is taken care of after you’re gone. An estate plan protects your family by providing clear instructions, so your wealth doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
- Avoids probate: Estate planning can help your property pass directly to your heirs instead of getting tied up in a long and costly probate battle. Three common estate planning tools to avoid probate are trusts, beneficiary designations, and jointly held property. If you own a home with your spouse, the house will automatically pass to them upon your death without going through probate.
- Name a guardian for minor children: If you don’t name a guardian to take care of your children in the event you pass away, you leave your children’s future up to the court system. When choosing a guardian, you want to consider whether they can emotionally and financially handle the care of your children. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with the guardian about your intentions, so they are not blindsided.
- Clarify your medical wishes: If you’re like most people, you probably don’t want to leave decisions regarding your medical care up to anyone else. Estate planning ensures your medical wishes are honored through a durable power of attorney, living will, and HIPAA authorization. For example, by filling out a living will, you can specify whether you’d want to remain in a coma if there was little to no chance of recovery.
- Tax benefits: Estate taxes can put a dent in the amount of money your heirs receive. The federal estate tax can be as high as 40%; however, it only applies to estates worth over $12.06 million as of 2022. Estate planning can help you and your heirs save on taxes by creating certain types of trusts and strategically gifting assets while you’re still alive.
- Plan for disabled children or relatives: You might be in a situation where you are the primary caretaker of a disabled adult child or relative. A special needs trust and plans for guardianship are crucial to ensure the disabled individual continues to receive care after you pass away.
- Eliminate conflict: Having an estate plan helps eliminate the possibility of conflict among heirs. It also ensures there are no questions regarding your intentions and reduces the chance of distant relatives coming out of the woodwork to claim a piece of your estate.
- Give to charity: An estate plan can help you accomplish your philanthropic goals. If there is a specific organization you wish to leave money to after you’re gone, you can note this in your will.
How long does an estate plan take?
The timeline for estate planning varies on whether you choose the traditional or online path.
Traditional estate planning costs you time and money. Here’s how:
- Scheduling meetings with attorneys
- Hiring law firms
- Waiting on lawyers and paralegals to draft your estate documents
- Reviewing matters with attorneys and their staff
- Likely to pay thousands of dollars in attorney fees
- Additional legal fees when you need to update your estate plan
Online solutions like MyAdvocate simplify the building and maintenance of your estate plan, saving you time and money. Here’s how:
- Allows you to prepare your estate plan on your own time. You’re not forced to take time off work to meet with an attorney during their office hours
- It takes less than an hour to build a robust estate plan using MyAdvocate — way faster than traditional estate planning
- Have everything signed and complete within hours versus several weeks or months with the traditional estate planning model
- Eliminates thousands of dollars in attorney expenses
- Minimal expenses involved in keeping your estate plan up-to-date through life and law changes
Use MyAdvocate if you have no time
- Create your estate plan from the comfort of your home on your own schedule
- The platform is built to provide an attorney-like robust estate planning experience
- Update your estate plan on your own time
- Never have to schedule time out of your day to go to an attorney’s office
The bottom line
Delaying estate planning leaves you and your family unprotected from life’s uncertainties.
It’s crucial to fit estate planning into your schedule, even if you don’t have the time. If it’s too overwhelming to tackle all at once, do it in phases; for example, create a will first, then move on to other essential legal documents.
MyAdvocate can help you create an estate plan online quickly. Simply answer a short questionnaire about your situation and goals, then we’ll provide a customized legal solution to get you protected with a few clicks of your mouse.