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The legal and estate planning industries don’t like to discuss the fact that millions of wills, trusts and other end-of-life documents go missing each year resulting in months—and sometimes years—of unnecessary stress when a family member passes away.

Yes, unfortunately if you haven’t properly planned ahead of time, your estate could end up in the hands of a highly undesirable recipient. You hear about those situations, but the recent PR Web article titled “Lost And Misplaced Estate Documents Take A Big Toll On Families” notes that more than 60% of adults in the United States will die without a basic estate plan. Wow! Also, the article reported that $4.9 billion in unclaimed assets are turned over to the government annually and only $1.7 billion of that is ever reclaimed. That’s a huge amount of money!

Money that the probate court will in many cases have no choice but to turn over to the state.

If a decedent fails to have a properly drafted will, the laws of intestacy will direct the court to pay out his or her assets according to degree or relation to the decedent. So, if you want to leave a sizeable bequest to the Humane Society or the ALS Association, you’d better write a check right now or put it in your will before you die. Otherwise, it may be just too late. There won’t be an option to do so if you pass without a will.

Likewise, if your only living relative is a cousin that gave you “snuggies” and “swirlies” (not enjoyable treatment and somewhat tortuous) as a kid, he may get a big payday when you die!

Speak to a qualified estate planning attorney and ask him or her to help you draft a will, create a trust, or whatever else you might need based on your specific circumstances.

Reference: PR Web (March 12, 2014) “Lost And Misplaced Estate Documents Take A Big Toll On Families

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.