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Everyone Needs an Estate Plan, Regardless of Wealth

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By Pamela Yip

living_will(MCT)—Unless you’re rich, you may think the term “estate planning” doesn’t apply to you. Well, think again.

The need for an estate plan has nothing to do with whether you’re worth millions or just a few hundred dollars. Everyone has something to pass on.

“People make a big mistake when they think, ‘I don’t need to do planning because I don’t have that much,’” says Marvin Blum, a Dallas-Fort Worth estate planning attorney. “Everybody has something, and without exception, everybody needs a will.”

Your estate includes your home and other real estate; tangible personal property, such as cars and furniture; and intangible property, such as bank accounts, investments, and pension and Social Security benefits.

At the very least, you need to decide what you’d like to happen with your estate when you die. But estate planning involves more than just having a will. Consider these questions:

If you and your spouse died suddenly in an auto accident, who would take care of your children?

If you could no longer manage your money because of illness, who would make financial decisions for you?

“A properly thought-out estate plan answers these and many other questions,” says Thomas Murphy, a certified financial planner in Dallas. “Many estate planning issues have little to do with money and a great deal to do with control.”

For Tommy and Johnnie Wells of Dallas, it’s a matter of ensuring that their estate passes to their heirs without complications.

“For us, it’s been to make sure that we can direct this to our children in the right way that will not burden them in any way,” says Johnnie, 69.

For example, the Wellses want to ensure that Tommy’s disabled daughter from a previous marriage doesn’t lose her disability benefits because of what she inherits.

“What we have to be careful of is that we don’t give her a lump sum that is going to disqualify her from her disability income,” says Tommy, 75.

Tommy also inherited mineral rights in a natural gas well, and the couple is trying to delicately navigate how it will pass those on to his grandchildren.

“We want to be fair to all of them, and at the same time, (deal with) the dynamics between the kids and the grandchildren,” Johnnie says. “One son doesn’t have any children at all, so that would be bypassing them entirely. We don’t want to leave him out.”

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