If someone asked me “what are the two biggest misconceptions about estate planning,” I know exactly what I would say: that estate planning is only for the “rich,” and that estate planning is only important for families (rather than single people). I discussed how far off the first misconception is in an earlier blog post. And based on recent conversations, I think it’s time to address the second misconception – that estate planning is only important for families and that it is not important for “single” folks.
Interestingly enough, the idea for this blog post came about as a result of a couple of great conversations with individuals who decided that, although they were not in a relationship and had no children, it would be good for them to have an estate plan. As a Grand Rapids, Mi wills and trusts attorney I say great, not just good. As we talked about what estate planning actually is they realized what a great decision they were making and that it truly is critically important.
Why? Well, if you haven’t invested your time and money to put a caring plan in place for yourself, then the State of Michigan has a default, one-size-fits-all plan for you. In my experience, that “default” plan is not even close to what my single clients have wanted. Many of them have certain family members, causes and charities they want to benefit if something happened to them, yet the “default” plan is the same for everyone and it certainly does not include those personal preferences. So, the #1 reason for a single person to have an estate plan is to make sure you leave the legacy YOU want by providing for the family, causes or charities dear to you.
The second reason is to make sure you are cared for if you become incapacitated. That could be as a result of a tragedy such as a car accident, or a scheduled period of incapacity such as surgery. A financial durable power of attorney and a healthcare durable power of attorney are the key estate planning components that help ensure your wishes are carried out during periods of incapacity. Without them, you would need to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed by the probate court. That is an unnecessary and unneeded cost of both time and money . . . and it can be avoided with proper estate planning.
The probate judge would chose the person who would handle your finances and make your healthcare decisions. Maybe it would be who you want, maybe not. And beyond that, without guidance, how would they know what your wishes are?
Taking a chance on the State’s default plan for you could be disastrous! Yet, that’s what would happen if you don’t have an estate plan.
Why take the chance? Give us a call at 616-827-7596 to have the added peace of mind of knowing your wishes will be followed and your legacy will what you want, not what the State wants for you.
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and business planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™. This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you. He focuses on estate and asset protection planning for the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses and pet planning. He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.