As we are celebrating America’s Independence Day, it brings to mind what personal independence might mean for American seniors.  Making sure your personal business affairs are taken care of provides a sort of independence for both the senior and his or her family.

Millions Have Not.

As hard as it is to believe, millions of people have not established an estate plan.  As people reach retirement – or may have retired – they probably have more assets than at any other time in their lives.  Your estate plan manages how these assets are allocated after your death.  Not doing so does not mean you don’t have a plan; the State has one for you – you just may not like it.  Without an estate plan, the courts rely on your state’s laws of intestacy (no will) and your family will have to live with anything the court decides.

It may be a complete stranger that makes decisions about your asset distribution if the court appoints an administrator in probate.  This can happen if there is no legal plan in place and your entire estate goes through probate.

The Marriage Mistake.

If you are married, both partners need a plan.  Many people make the huge mistake of assuming that if you are married, a transfer of assets is automatic.  The problem is, you don’t know which of the married partners will die first and you don’t know how far apart the deaths of each partner may occur. Either party without a will leaves the possibility of chaos in the family.

Decisions in Limbo.

If you do not name someone to plan your funeral, burial and memorial service, the court may make that decision for you.  Imagine the funeral conflagration should the court elect an estranged relative.  While the court may try to make a good decision, without your instructions to follow, it could be a scene you would not like to have as part of your memory.

Declare Your Independence.

While these are difficult things to think about, an estate plan is a powerful way to stay in control of your life and assets and truly declare your independence from outside interference with matters that are so personal to you.

Should you find yourself among the millions who have not taken these steps toward independence, contact an estate attorney as soon as possible.