Estate planning – have you and your family members done it? Sometimes, Pennsylvania residents take the “bury your head in the sand” approach to problems – problems they know they need to deal with at some point. When it comes to estate planning, this could be called the “do nothing” approach.

Unfortunately, as a recent news article pointed out, the “do nothing” approach to estate planning can be a big mistake. Why? Well, because of something called “intestate” laws. Basically, if a person dies without a Will or other estate planning document, state law will determine what is to become of that person’s assets and, for those with minor children, the guardianship of those children.

At the very least, Pennsylvania residents should probably have a Will in place to direct how assets should be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries. A Will can name a personal representative to handle the affairs of the decedent. A Will can also provide direction as to the preferred guardian for any minor children – preferably someone who has already been consulted about the potential need to fill this role and has agreed to do so.

Every family situation is unique, so it is unlikely that any two estate plans will be exactly alike. Some individuals and families have more complicated assets to address, such as businesses or other high-value assets. But, even those with what they perceive to be “limited” means would likely benefit from establishing a comprehensive estate plan. The alternative – a plan implemented pursuant to intestate laws – may not be preferable.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, “Estate planning is an important step in protecting your assets,” Heather McGinley, March 2, 2018