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How to Ensure the State Doesn’t Control Your Asset Distribution

When it comes to estate planning, one of the primary concerns for many individuals is maintaining control over how their assets are distributed after they pass away. Without proper planning, the state can end up making these decisions for you, often through a process known as intestate succession. At Allenby Law, we specialize in creating estate plans that ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, not the default laws of the state.

Understanding Intestate Succession

Intestate succession occurs when an individual dies without a valid will. In such cases, state laws determine how the deceased’s assets are divided among surviving family members. The specific rules vary by state but typically prioritize spouses, children, and other close relatives. While these laws are designed to reflect what the average person might intend, they often do not account for individual preferences or more complex familial situations.

Steps to Maintain Control Over Your Estate

  1. Draft a Will: The most straightforward way to maintain control over asset distribution is by drafting a will. This legal document allows you to specify exactly who should inherit your assets, from family members to friends or charitable organizations.
  2. Create a Trust: For greater control, particularly if you want to manage how your assets are used after you pass, consider setting up a trust. Trusts can be used to distribute assets over time, set conditions for inheritance, and potentially avoid the probate process, which can be public and time-consuming.
  3. Regularly Update Your Estate Plan: Life changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, and the acquisition of significant assets should prompt a review and possible update of your estate planning documents to ensure they still reflect your current wishes and circumstances.
  4. Designate Beneficiaries on Accounts: Many financial accounts, including retirement accounts and life insurance policies, allow you to designate beneficiaries directly. These designations generally supersede instructions in a will or trust, providing a straightforward way to ensure assets are passed to the right people.
  5. Power of Attorney Assignments: Establishing a durable power of attorney for finances allows you to appoint someone you trust to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. This can prevent the state from having to step in and make these decisions.
  6. Advanced Healthcare Directives: Similarly, a healthcare power of attorney and a living will allow you to dictate your medical care preferences and appoint someone to make health-related decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Procrastination: Delaying estate planning can lead to unintended consequences, especially if unexpected health issues arise.
  • Failing to Consider All Assets: Make sure all your assets, including digital assets and personal effects, are accounted for in your estate plan.
  • Neglecting to Discuss Plans with Family: Communicating your estate planning choices with your family can help prevent conflicts and ensure everyone understands your intentions.

By taking proactive steps to create and maintain a comprehensive estate plan, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your specific wishes rather than by state laws. At Allenby Law, we guide our clients through every step of this process, ensuring that their estate plans are robust, up-to-date, and reflective of their desires. Contact us today to take control of your asset distribution and safeguard your legacy.

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