Happy National Estate Planning Awareness Week!
In recognition of the fact that over 120,000,000 Americans don’t have an estate plan, Congress designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Over the next few days, join us as we discuss the basics of any estate plan, and how you can best protect yourself and your family from the twin perils of Guardianship and Probate. But first, you may be asking,
First off, you’ll be in very good company! Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, didn’t have an estate plan in place when she died a few months ago. For that matter, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all died without an estate plan. Even President Abraham Lincoln, who was himself a lawyer, failed to make even a basic will.
If you die without a Will or Trust, state law determines who will be your ultimate heirs, and what procedures those heirs will go through in order to receive your assets. For residents of Nevada, or for non-residents of Nevada who leave real estate in Nevada, the applicable succession statutes can be found in Nevada Revised Statutes 134. In general, the more assets you leave, the longer and more complicated the process becomes. If you have a spouse and no children, the spouse will inherit all of your interest in community property, and at least half of your separate property, depending on whether you are survived by parents or siblings. If you have a spouse and one child, the surviving spouse received half of your separate property, and the child receives the other half. If you have a spouse and more than one child, the spouse gets one-third of the separate property while the kids share the remainder.
The important take-away is that without a document in place, you give up your right to make your own decisions about who receives what and when.