When it comes to estate planning, there are countless rumors that circulate. One of them is that, if you die without a Will, or some other form of estate plan, the government takes your property. I’m happy to tell you that this rumor is completely false. However, there other reasons that dying without an estate plan is a bad idea. First of all, if you die without an estate plan, and you own any property at all in your individual name, your property can’t pass on to your loved ones without going through the legal system. The probate court will have to appoint an administrator to distribute your assets according to the rules set forth under state law. You don’t get to choose who serves as your administrator, and you don’t get to choose who gets your property. The law says that your property goes to your closest relatives (spouse and children first, and on from there), which may or may not be the way that you’d like things to happen. Further, with no estate plan, the process of distributing your estate can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. Your administrator will most likely need to hire an attorney to help him or her with through the legal process, and the process itself can take anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the amount of property you leave behind, and whether or not there is conflict within your family concerning the way your estate is distributed. Also, if you pass away leaving a substantial amount of assets, it’s likely that your administrator will have to pay estate taxes on your behalf. Your heirs will have no access to your property until all your debts and taxes are paid, all conflicts are settled, and the court declares that your property is ready to be distributed. Finally, if you have children, with no estate plan, if you and the children’s other parent pass away while the children are still minors, the court will step in and decide who will take care of them until they reach adulthood. The guardian chosen by the court may or may not be someone you approve of or feel comfortable with. A well-thought-out estate plan can help you avoid court involvement in these important issues involving the care of your children and the distribution of your property. It can let you determine who cares for your children should you pass away. It can allow you to choose who gets your property, when, and how. If your estate is large enough for taxes to be a concern, it can also help you minimize your estate tax liability. A consultation with an estate planning attorney can help you determine what estate plan is best for you.