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Even some celebrities neglect to prepare wills or trusts

A survey by a senior care resources company recently indicated that more than half of the adults nationwide, including in New York, have not done estate planning. This means that many people die without wills, one of which was the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Despite knowing that she had a severe illness, she failed to make sure that her affairs were in order before her death. For many people, acknowledging their mortality is too emotional.

In the case of Aretha Franklin, the state in which she lived will take control of her estate. The probate court of her county will oversee the division of her assets, which would likely go to her four children. It includes retirement accounts, property and other assets along with the income from her extensive music catalog. However, not all heirs are equipped or prepared to manage significant financial inheritances, which underscores the importance of estate planning.

It is not the value or size of the estate that makes estate planning necessary. Even those without significant net worth can use estate planning to specify who should get what. A parent can provide instructions on the terms on which assets must be distributed to his or her children -- some might be spendthrifts and others responsible. Furthermore, anyone with young children can name guardians rather than leaving it up to the courts to decide with whom the children will live.

Although many people in New York find it daunting to think of estate planning, help is available. An experienced attorney can explain the benefits of drafting wills and establishing trusts. With the support and guidance of legal counsel, anyone can achieve peace of mind in knowing that his or her affairs are in order.

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