Without a doubt, one of the worst things that a parent can do for their children is to pass away without an estate plan. It makes the situation complex and stressful for their heirs. This is already a difficult time since they just lost a parent, and it's made much worse by the fact that they can't focus on mourning or coming together as a family. Instead, they have to worry about things like paying taxes and splitting up assets.
Naturally, it's also possible for children in this situation to make costly mistakes. They're feeling emotional. They're stressed and busy. Are they going to overlook assets or make other errors that cost the family dearly? It happens. Sometimes, it's too late to go back.
A frightening percentage
This all matters because reports show over and over again that most people have not done any estate planning. One recent report, for instance, looked at people over the age of 55 and found that almost 50% of them had done no estate planning.
Often, when you hear these percentages cited, they take into account all adults. Maybe you write those numbers off a bit, feeling like you understand why people in their 20s don't have an estate plan. Maybe you feel like it skews the numbers.
While the reality is that everyone needs an estate plan, your feelings are understandable. Even so, this report specifically looked at those who are close to retirement age. These are exactly the people who should definitely have a plan. Many of them have adult children. Some have grandchildren. They've had almost six decades to accumulate wealth and assets.
And yet, they still don't have plans. When researchers broke it down a little further and asked who had complex and complete plans -- not just a will but also a durable power of attorney and a health care directive -- the percentage plummeted all the way to 18%.
Of course, it's better to have a will than to have nothing, but it's clear that many people think it's enough. It may not be. A will helps split up assets, but it does not give the person much control, it does not consider health care realities and it does not take into account planning for a disability that leaves them needing care and assistance long before they actually pass away.
Did your parents pass away without leaving you a will or any other estate planning documents? Has that lack of direction caused some disputes between you and your siblings? When confusion strikes and there is a lot on the line, it's crucial that you know all of the legal rights that you have in California.