Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Estate Planning for Families with Small Estates

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Estate Planning for Families with Small Estates

Article excerpt

It is not unusual for families with small or

modest estates (even those less than

$50,000) to feel that they do not have to

write a will. If you die intestate (that is,

without a will), the state--not you--will

decide how your estate is to be

distributed. In addition to the state

dictating how your assets will be managed

and distributed, dying without a will also

substantially increases the probate costs

of transferring your assets to your heirs.

Many families feel they cannot afford

to write a will. However, families with

few assets cannot afford to have their

estate diminished by bonds, court fees,

guardian fees, executor's fees, and

additional lawyer fees. If you die

intestate, the court appoints an executor

and if you have a minor or adult child with a

disability, the court appoints a guardian

who will charge the estate for this service.

Had a trusted friend or relative been

appointed by your will to handle this

same duty, he or she may have waived the

fee, or charged the estate a far smaller

amount than a court-selected executor or


If a family has a child with a disability

who is receiving governmental benefits or

is incapable of handling his or her own

money, dying without a will creates even

further problems and additional expenses.

If families do not make special provisions

for the share of an inheritance that will go

to the family member with a disability,

that individual may be exploited and

robbed of his or her inheritance. In

addition, he or she may lose eligibility for programs such

as: SSI; Medicaid; services from the

Department of Mental Retardation, or the

Department of Rehabilitation Services;

food stamps; or subsidized housing

assistance. To the family member with a

disability, these services may be far more

valuable than the inheritance. Intestacy

laws do not take into consideration a

person's need to remain eligible for

government benefits. …

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