It’s easy to underestimate the importance of getting one’s affairs in order until it becomes too late. Some people are either too busy and preoccupied to consider what will happen to their assets after their passing, while some may simply choose to ignore it, considering it is not the most cheerful of subjects. However, when considering beneficiaries and family, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that all assets fall into the right hands.
Some people may underestimate the extensive process that goes along with designating an estate after someone’s passing without a well set out plan. Without an estate planning attorney, these cases can be put in the hands of the court to resolve. Unfortunately, this involves plenty of extra work for family members.
They must attend multiple court hearings in which the court will determine where and how assets will be distributed in what they believe may have been the deceased’s wishes. These situations are called probates. Besides just the timely chores this creates for the family, the money needed to cover the court and lawyer fees comes straight out of the leftover estate. Between paying fees and taxes, a substantial chunk of assets can be lost.
With the use of an estate planning attorney, their are ways to pass down money and assets without the need to pay taxes on them. In 2015, it is now possible for individuals to leave bequests, or gifts upon death, designated individuals up to $5.43 million free of federal estate taxes. An amount of money such as that would otherwise face serious taxation.
A useful too that an estate lawyer can provide is power of attorney. Technically anyone could be granted power of attorney, but this allows them an enormous amount of influence over what happens to the assets. If someone so wished, they could easily take advantage of a power of attorney.
There are few statistics that track power of attorney abuse, but the MetLife Mature Market Institute of MetLife Inc., put the annual financial loss suffered by victims of elder financial abuse in 2009, including exploitation of power attorney, at $2.9 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
There are currently 51% of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 who don’t have living wills. All of these people are at risk of losing part of their estate or even getting taken advantage of. Finding reliable legal services and an estate planning attorney can help you get your affairs in order.