Enunciating all the reasons and benefits of having an estate plan deserves a larger, multi-post treatment. However, I wanted to give an overview of the advantages to setting up an estate plan.
First: you can control where your property and assets go. If you die without a will, then your estate will be labeled “intestate” which simply means “without a will”. If you execute a valid will before death, your estate will be “testate” or “with a will”. The property in an intestate estate is distributed by state law and not necessarily according to your wishes. However, if you are testate, then the will, and whatever restrictions, designations, etc you put in place, will be honored.
Second: you can designate who makes decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. In your power of attorney(s), you will designate your attorney-in-fact, who will be authorized to make decisions for you. The attorney-in-fact will be authorized on financial and healthcare decisions.
Third: in your living will or healthcare directive, you can dictate your end of life decisions. Otherwise, your living relatives will have to get a court order concerning what the judge determines to be your wishes as to end of life care.
These are just a few of the reasons to have an estate plan: disposition of property, grant of decision making authority, and end of life care wishes. I will do a series in the future going over all the documents in an estate plan, and the particulars of each.