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A sad but true estate planning and probate reality

Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about the need to create and maintain a thoughtful drafted estate plan. That said, the reality is that many in New Jersey and across the nation will not address this important need, and their heirs will be forced to go through the probate process. A recent article written for estate planning attorneys puts an unusual spin on this reality, one that is disheartening for many families but also has the power to motivate some to make a change.

The piece reported that statistics suggest that between 55 and 70 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan in place. With the Baby Boomer generation now at or beyond retirement age, more Americans than ever before will soon need the protections that an estate plan can offer. However, the article does not focus on how to convince older Americans to create an estate plan; it instead suggests that the negative repercussions of failing to do so will increase awareness of the issue.

Specifically, the point is made that, as many Baby Boomers die intestate, their heirs will be thrust into the difficulties of moving through the probate process. These individuals will have to move through the timely, difficult and often frustrating process of probate. In doing so, many will learn firsthand the value of having a solid estate plan in place, and they will make the effort to put their own affairs in order so that their heirs will not suffer the same fate.

It should not take having to go through a difficult probate process to understand why estate planning is important. However, it may be true that there is no lesson more powerful than one learned through firsthand experience. It may be the case that, as Boomers in New jersey and elsewhere begin to reach the end of their lives in greater numbers, their heirs will take steps to put their own estate planning needs in order.

Source: wealthmanagement.com, "The Shift from Estate Planning to Estate Probating", Mary Merrell Bailey, Oct. 20, 2014

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