Sadly, many individuals don’t engage in formal estate planning because they think that they don't have “a lot of assets” or mistakenly believe that their assets will be automatically shared among their children upon passing. If you don’t make proper legal arrangements for the management of your assets and affairs after your passing, the state’s intestacy laws will take over upon your death or incapacity. This often results in the wrong people getting your assets as well as higher estate taxes.
If you pass away without establishing an estate plan, your estate will undergo probate, a public, court-supervised proceeding. Probate can be expensive and tie up the assets of the deceased for a prolonged period before beneficiaries can receive them. (This firm has been involved in several of these types of cases over the past few years.) Even worse, your failure to outline your intentions through proper estate planning can tear apart your family as each person maneuvers to be appointed with the authority to manage your affairs. Further, it is not unusual for bitter family feuds to ensue over modest sums of money or a family heirloom. As an example, this office was involved in a case between a mother and daughter over the ownership of a used kitchen table and set of chairs owned by a deceased family member.