If you don’t file estate planning documents, your state will do it for you, perhaps not the way you expect. Estate planning attorney Steve Waltar with Legacy Estate Planning joins Suzanne to talk about various options available when planning your estate, what happens when you list beneficiaries, generally how wills work, living wills, living trusts, and Medicaid planning.

Steve says, “There’s lots of benefits of proper estate planning. Avoid probate, that’s very common. It’s to protect your assets from creditors, or at least from your beneficiaries. Many people want to leave a legacy, they want to pass on their values, they want to lower estate taxes. And sometimes people want to do generational planning for the grandchildren as well. So the list is long. There’s a lot of who gets what, when, and how.

“70 to 80% of people die without a will. If you die without a will, the state has one for you. And it’s different in every state. If you’re married, certain property goes to your spouse, but if you have separate property, it would only be half, and the other half would go to children. It may choose the wrong people, or it may be ineffective. You certainly can’t do estate tax planning. You certainly can’t do legacy planning. That’s the big one you want to avoid. The other one, it’s not a very good practical one, we can joke about it, is to have the last check to the underwriter bounce. I don’t know people who want to outlast their estate. Spend it all, it’s not a really good plan.”