Sep 11, 2007

When to Stop Procrastinating and Make That Estate Plan

While some people may not be ready for an estate plan, others need one yesterday. And lots of us fall somewhere in between no need and urgent need.

Here are ten situations in which you need some kind of estate plan. They're listed in decreasing urgency from "you need an estate plan, now" to "you know, should really think about making an estate plan."

  1. You have an untraditional family structure. For example, you and your partner aren't married or your partner is not your child's other legal parent. Make arrangements to protect your partner and your children, ASAP.

  2. You do not want the bulk of your property to go to your closest relative. Write a will or trust.

  3. You have a child with special needs who relies on government benefits. Set up a special needs trust to supplement income, without risking eligibility for government benefits.

  4. You are close to the end of your life, either because of age or illness. Now is the time make your wishes known, with a health care directive and a will or trust.

  5. You want to name a guardian who will care for your child if both you and the child's other parent cannot. Write a will.

  6. You have a large estate (more than $2 million). Your estate will be subject to estate tax. Careful planning may allow your estate to avoid or delay paying that tax.

  7. You have specific wishes about the health care you would receive if you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Make a health care directive to make your wishes known to your family and to your caregivers.

  8. You want to determine what happens to your body after you die. Consider making final arrangements so that your love ones can honor your wishes.

  9. You want certain items of your property to go to specific people. Write a will, otherwise your property will be distributed according to the laws of your state.

  10. You're not rich, but you own a few high-value items. Consider writing a will to distribute your property.

Betsy Simmons