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3 things that can happen if you ignore estate planning needs

It's understandable that individuals put off estate planning; these things can be overwhelming or even frightening to consider, especially if you don't have the right professional help to work through the process. But estate planning doesn't have to be frustrating or scary, and getting your plans on paper with the help of an experienced lawyer can actually reduce your stress by providing you with peace of mind about the future. If you ignore estate planning needs, on the other hand, your heirs can experience the consequences.

Probate costs can eat into the assets of an estate, and that can be especially distressing if your estate is high in value but not in cash. That means that heirs might have to convert some of those valuable assets to cash so they can cover probate costs, or they might have to find a way to foot the bill themselves temporarily to get through probate. You can help reduce some of the costs associated with probate by planning ahead, ensuring you have a good cash to property balance in your estate and employing vehicles such as life insurance or trusts to more efficiently pass on assets.

Without proper estate planning, your family might not have immediate access to funds. If they depend on you to provide or you have minor children, your family probably can't wait for the court to set dates and go through the probate motions. Strong estate planning lets you leverage pay-on-death accounts and life insurance to mitigate these issues.

Finally, if you don't take time to plan for what happens to your assets after you are gone, someone else will make those decisions for you. No matter who ends up making decisions -- and it usually starts with the courts -- you can't be assured that your legacy will be handled as you desire unless you plan for your estate yourself.

Source: The Huffington Post, "5 Consequences of Avoiding Estate Planning," Cindy Tansin, Feb. 11, 2017

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