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When people focus on creating or updating their estate plan, many wait so they have certainty about their tax situation. Because laws are constantly being passed that may impact their taxes—both now and in regard to their estate plan—individuals assume it is best to wait to review the plan until these bills have been passed. However, because of these constant changes, waiting is not advised. Additionally, there are non-tax aspects of estate planning that should be finalized as soon as possible. Below are some of these aspects and explanations for why estate planning should not be delayed.

Reason #1: Guardianship for Children

For individuals with children, it is essential to have an estate plan in place. Because if the person dies, having an estate plan allows them to name a potential guardian. This would be the person who would take care of the children. In many cases, this would be the surviving spouse; however, there should be a section addressing if the surviving spouse pre-deceases the other or if the partners die in a common accident. Without an estate plan, there may be fighting amongst family members or loved ones about who should raise the children if a tragedy occurs, and their parents pass away. Avoiding this potential struggle is easy by creating an estate plan.

Over time, people have recognized the differing needs individuals have when it comes to estate planning. While they may know that no two people will have the exact same estate plan, depending on the person’s livelihood, relationship with loved ones, and even their sex. This is surprising to most individuals. For example, women may have some unique estate planning needs that most men do not have. These needs extend to all aspects of the estate planning arena, including retirement needs, caretaking responsibilities, and end-of-life care. Below are some common issues that women face when going through the estate planning process, along with how life insurance may be the solution to these difficulties.

Earning Challenges

One such struggle with estate planning that women face is the earning power challenges that make it difficult to plan for retirement. Considering women still only earn approximately 82 cents for every dollar a man makes—with the amount being lower for women of color—this makes it even more essential to plan ahead for the future. Without adequate savings for retirement, women may feel they need to work even longer in order to be financially secure in their final years of life.

The estate planning process can be complicated for those just beginning since there is a lot to learn. Because of this, most people do not know how probate can impact estate planning overall. Probate is the court administration of an individual’s estate—which occurs after they have passed away. Depending on the amount of planning an individual has done before they die, the probate process may either be smooth or difficult. Below are some common questions and explanations about the probate process and how Texas estate planning attorneys advise their clients on these issues.

What is Probate?

After a person’s death, the court reviews the deceased’s debts in probate—if they had any—and then distributes their remaining assets to loved ones. Most people are surprised that regardless of if the person had a will or not, they will go through the probate process. If the person had a will in place, called a testate, then the process is much easier and is less likely to be questioned. However, if the person did not have a will, called intestate, the process is often much more complicated. This is another reason why it is critical to have an estate plan in place.

As a younger generation, many individuals assume that millennials do not need an estate plan yet—mainly because they are far from needing to use it. However, this is not always the case. Millennials are creating estate plans at a record rate. They recognize the importance of planning for the future and ensuring their loved ones will be taken care of—regardless of their net worth—and not delaying the process. Viewing the estate planning trends that many millennials are using can be instructive in finding the estate plan that works best for others. Below are some of these trends and how people can utilize them in their estate plans.

What Motivates Millennials to Create Estate Plans?

Everyone has a different motivation for drafting estate plans and planning for their future. According to a recent survey, millennials were most motivated to make a plan because they had a child. Often when someone has a child, they want to ensure they are financially and physically taken care of—this includes leaving them assets in their will and appointing guardians for the kid in case the parents pass away. More so than other generations, millennials are designating non-blood relatives as a guardian.

Life happens, we get it. Therefore, most individuals put off estate planning. However, there are major downsides when this is avoided for too long and they unexpectedly pass away. When someone dies without a will, it is called dying intestate. There are many consequences dying intestate in Texas, including that the decedent does not get to choose who will receive their assets— their funds, property, and items. Because there are benefits to drafting an estate plan and ensuring one does not die intestate, below are examples of the dangers of intestate property and resolution to this issue.

What Problems Can Arise from Not Having an Estate Plan?

When someone dies without a will, they do not have the ability to decide who will receive their possessions. This occurred to famous artist Henry Darger, whose family entered into a long-drawn-out legal battle. When Darger died without a will in place, his landlords—who helped bring notoriety to his art—had ownership of his pieces of art, some of which have been appraised at close to $800,000. Now, long-lost relatives of Darger have filed a lawsuit, arguing they are the rightful beneficiaries of his property. The landlords are arguing that Darger told them that they could keep or discard his possessions.

Divorces are often emotionally difficult and draining—big life changes are occurring, which are stressful enough on their own. But when people are going through this process, often the last thing on their mind is updating their estate plan. However, estate planning nightmares may occur if individuals do not update their estate plans after a divorce. Former spouses and stepchildren may be able to take advantage of the estate plan if it is not changed—regardless of the person’s intentions. Below is information and advice for newly divorced Texans, explaining why updating their estate plan as soon as possible is essential.

Why Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan After My Divorce?

Estate planning may not seem like a top priority after a divorce. However, this is incorrect. While former spouses no longer have certain benefits from an estate plan—even if the estate plan is not changed—there are some designations that are not automatically revoked unless the estate plan is actively changed. For example, in Texas, unless a person actively removes their former spouse from their life insurance policy, the ex-spouse can still stand to receive the policy benefit if the individual passes away.

As their parents get older, many millennials are having to step in and become caregivers. Because of this, many millennials are becoming interested in estate planning themselves—seeing its benefits and their need for the future. For many of them, they are not only taking care of their parents but also their children. This has put them in a unique situation that heightens the need for estate planning even more. Studies have shown millennials’ reasoning for estate planning, their unique “Sandwich generation” requirements, and other factors to take into consideration during this process. Below are a few of these findings and how young adults can incorporate them into their estate plan.

What Prompts Millennials to Create Estate Plans?

Children, Loved Ones, and Death

As the weather starts to get warmer, people begin planning for their summer vacations plans. For those individuals with a vacation, or second, home, these vacation plans might seem easier. There are many benefits to owning a vacation home: always having a place to stay and long-lasting family memories. However, there are detriments on the estate planning front that come from having a vacation home if individuals do not plan accordingly. Below are ways to incorporate vacation homes into estate plans, so families are prepared for the future.

Deciding What to Do with the Property After You Pass Away

When it comes to vacation homes, one critical aspect of the estate planning process is to decide what to do with the property after the owner dies. For most individuals, this will be leaving the property to someone else in their will. If they decide to gift the property, owners should think carefully about who they wish to receive per the will. Many times, parents will want to give the home to their children. But this can be more complicated when they want to gift it to all of their children, rather than a single individual.

When people think about talking with their aging parents about the future, they are often stressed and nervous. How will the conversation go, how will their parents react, and what should they say? Because of this, children often put off this conversation, delaying it for as long as possible. However, delaying too long can be dangerous—as parents get older, it may be more difficult for them to make decisions about their future, which could lead to even more hurdles. Below are a few questions children should ask their aging parents about estate planning, and why there is such a need to do so as soon as possible.

Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents:

What Are Your Future Plans for Your Money?

Creating an estate plan is an important task when thinking about the future. However, there are often mistakes that can be made if these documents are created without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Some of these most common errors include unintentionally leaving assets to former partners or spouses after divorce or separation. There are ways to avoid these common estate planning mistakes and ensure ex-spouses are not inheriting the other person’s money. Below is advice on how to make sure assets are untangled from an estate planning perspective after a divorce—along with how professionals can assist in creating an estate plan that works for each person and their situation.

Mistakes that Allow Ex-Spouses to Inherit from an Estate Plan

Most individuals do not intend to leave their former spouses any of their assets when they pass away. However, many people are unintentionally doing so by not changing their estate plans after their divorce. People who do their research may recognize that state laws, including Texas, usually say that former spouses lose all property rights to each other’s assets. But since pensions and retirement funds are governed by federal law, these state laws may not apply.

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