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Without an estate plan, the state can become your beneficiary

On Behalf of | May 20, 2016 | Estate Planning |

Did you know that Los Angeles County holds a monthly auction to sell unclaimed possessions of people who have died? These people either had no will (at least none that could be located) or had a will, but none of the heirs could be found or were alive. Further, no friends or family members claimed their belongings.

When this happens, the county stores the belongings for a period and then auctions them off. It recoups the costs of storing and auctioning the property and gives the rest to the state.

Most people would probably prefer that the state not end up with their property. However, too many people give little consideration to what will happen to their belongings after they die. They either don’t want to think about it or figure that one way or another it will work out. However, if you don’t have an estate plan — even a simple will — this is exactly what can happen.

Some people do have an estate plan, but they fail to update it over the years. In the meantime, heirs can die or move away and be difficult to locate. If your estate plan makes no alternative provisions, you have no say in where your assets end up.

Even if you have no family members or close friends to leave your property to, wouldn’t you prefer that a worthy charity get them? A local church, school or youth organization could make good use of even items of relatively little value. Many non-profit organizations take donations of household items and sell them in thrift stores to raise money. Animal rescue groups accept donations of towels and bedding. The options for letting your possessions benefit others after you’re gone are seemingly endless.

Having an estate plan doesn’t have to be an expensive, complicated procedure, particularly if you have only a simple will. However, it’s essential to keep it up-to-date and to make sure that it’s easy to locate after you’re gone.

If you have family or a close friend or caretaker, make sure that someone knows where to locate your documents and who your estate planning attorney is. If you have no living family or close friends, keep your estate planning attorney’s card in your wallet. These simple steps can help ensure that the state doesn’t inherit your assets.

Source: The Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley Journal, “Your Unintended Heir – The State,” Marlene S. Cooper, May 11, 2016