In today’s Wall Street Journal there was section on the future of automobiles. The first article, titled “Nobody Behind the Wheel,” described how the future of the driverless car is coming. The other article, titled “Trucks Will Roll Down an E-Highway In California Test” was on trucks transporting cargo along a trolley system in California.
I immediately thought about the articles applicability to estate planning.
Now, you might wonder how I jumped from futuristic cars to estate planning. But, many people I met talk about not needing an estate plan because intestacy will handle everything, they do not have a large enough estate to worry about it, or everything is controlled by joint tenancy or beneficiary designations. They think intestacy adequately distributes a decedent’s assets.
Intestacy is the government’s plan to distribute a decedent’s probate assets in accordance with a set priority. A decedent’s probate assets that are distributed are governed by the familial relationship of the beneficiary to the decedent. Intestate statutes also dictate what percentage a beneficiary will receive from the decedent. Intestacy statutes do not take into account needs of the beneficiaries or desires of the decedent.
Estate planning is more than a person’s asset that are distributed out under the intestacy statutes. Estate planning is also about if you have become incapacitated and need someone to oversee your financial affairs through a Power of Attorney. Or, it is making sure you have appointed the correct person to speak for you with regard to end of life decisions in Advanced Medical Directive. Putting those decisions on auto-pilot could result in the wrong decision or person making decisions for you.
Like a driverless car, where simply pushing a button will take a person from Point A to Point B, many people feel estate planning needs is only a one-way solution.
It is simply not the case.