Once Upon A Time…An Estate Planning Tale

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Noplann, there lived a group of people who thought they would live forever. They raised families. They had careers. But when it came to thinking about their demise, they just stuck their heads in the sand. To them, planning for their departure meant admitting they would one day leave this world, an idea they weren’t ready to accept it. That philosophy ran through the entire society and it caused problems for everyone—everyone that is, except The Tax Man, who lurked in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

Just as sure as death and taxes, some of Noplann’s royalty died and their lack of planning created catastrophic results. The Queen, Aretha Franklin, had been encouraged to plan for the disposition of her $80 million estate, but she did not. Her kids jumped through lots of legal hoops and received their inheritance only after The Tax Man took more than $27 million.

The Prince of Noplann also didn’t do advance planning. He died earlier than expected at age 58. After The Tax Man was through with Prince’s $300 million estate, more than $161 million was carted off to The Tax Man’s lair.

And then, there was the King. He was legendary and his exploits were known in kingdoms around the world. But while King Elvis did a little planning, it wasn’t nearly enough and the ever-present Tax Man carried off bags of money to the tune of 73% of the King’s estate.

There are other famous residents of Noplann—Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Howard Hughes, and Martin Luther King, Jr to name just a few.

Failing to create an estate plan is a widespread problem. A Harris poll commissioned by Rocket Lawyer found that 64 per cent of Americans do not have a will.  And when a person dies intestate, the STATE decides how property will be distributed.  That means almost two-thirds of Americans have decided to let someone else choose the fate of what they leave behind.

You may not be royalty, like the folks in Noplann, but your estate is just as important, and there are lots of reasons to create an estate plan—privacy, taxes, taking care of beneficiaries, eliminating family in-fighting. But maybe the best reason is to make sure YOUR wishes are carried out.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • Is a will the best planning tool for my situation
  • Do I need a trust rather than a will
  • Does it matter if my estate goes through probate
  • Do I want the details of my estate settlement to remain private
  • Should one person settle my estate or multiple people with different skill sets
  • Will I create problems naming a family member as my executor or trustee
  • Is a corporate trustee the best option

Even if you’ve done some planning—review.  Make sure your wishes are up-to-date.  Things change.  For example, if you’ve divorced but haven’t updated your will, trust, or the beneficiaries on your life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts, your ex-spouse could get your estate, and wouldn’t that tick off some folks!

The moral of the story—no planning, no control.  So, do some homework.  Get expert advice.  Create a plan that insures your assets will be handled the way you want after you’re gone. The land of Noplann doesn’t need any more residents.

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