Think ahead: property, care and probate
Funeral planning and estate planning are closely related in two respects: One, you can add funeral plans into your estate planning or will, and two, like funeral planning, estate planning can make your funeral much easier for your loved ones, as they won't have to fear the legal hassles of probate or being intestate.
You can plan your funeral as part of your estate planning. There are many advantages to having a will and planning the management of your estate, particularly for anyone with assets or children and / or a spouse. Not to mention, it is a responsible thing to do. The time of your death will most likely be stressful and chaotic for the loved ones you leave behind - estate planning allows you to remove at least some of the burden.
It's not easy to deal with the prospect of your own death, but planning your estate is a responsible thing to do. Many people feel they do not need a will, perhaps assuming that their assets are so little they don't require an estate plan. But with fluctuating real estate values and stock markets (to name a few examples), this position is weak at best; regardless of the size of the estate, taking control is the right thing to do.
Another popular misconception is that the state will sort out assets, so there's no need to do it yourself. While this assumption is true, there's no guarantee that the state will sort out your assets fairly if you don't provide direction. Chances are things would not come out as you would have intended.
If you've never considered estate planning, think about the following issues:
- Property. Some states don't automatically give the estate to the surviving spouse, but instead give two thirds to the children. If this happened to your family, would you want them to go through the legal hassles to straighten it out? There are many legal and even personal problems that could be caused or exacerbated by a lack of legal estate planning.
- Care of your children or other dependents. If you and your spouse should both die without a will, the state may grant foster custody to family members, even if that wouldn't have been your first choice.
- Probate fees. These can be agonizing for your family, especially as they will be awaiting decisions as to how the estate will be decided.
These are just a few of the serious problems that can be avoided by proper estate planning. If you do make the decision to take control of the management of your estate, you'll also want to consider: