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What Happens if I Don’t Create an Estate Plan?

Creating an estate plan is something that people often put off. End-of-life planning makes some people uncomfortable. Others get busy and do not make time for it. However, waiting to create an estate plan could be a mistake.

If you do not take the time now, you could be creating multiple problems. Not only will you lose your voice in what happens to your property, but also you could be leaving a very difficult situation for your loved ones.

In Wisconsin, the property of a person who dies without a will must pass according to Wisconsin’s intestacy laws. This means you do not get to choose who gets what. This can create a significant hardship for your loved ones, who may have to make complex decisions without guidance from you. They may struggle to try to carry out wishes they believe you had.

Dying without a will

The recent and tragic death of music icon Aretha Franklin can serve as an example of what can happen when someone passes away without an estate plan. As has been widely reported, Franklin did not have a will.

This means that her loved ones — including her four sons — will have to navigate the probate process publicly and without any guidance from Franklin. The distribution of Franklin’s considerable assets will be subject to state laws, which means that it will likely not reflect any special considerations or philanthropic goals she may have had.

There may also be very complex assets to address in Franklin’s estate, from real estate properties and business investments to copyrights and publishing rights. This can lead to a lengthy and potentially contentious probate process.

Lessons to learn

This case can show what happens when anyone — celebrity or not — passes away without a will. Distributions may not reflect an individual’s wishes; the estate will go through probate, which is a public and sometimes divisive process; there can be challenges with locating and distributing complex assets.

To protect your wishes and your loved ones during this difficult time, it is crucial to create an estate plan. Putting it off may be easy, but you could ultimately save yourself and your family a lot of time, money, and grief by talking to an attorney about your estate plan sooner than later.