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The unexpected death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair has raised a lot of questions about fidelity and domestic violence. Putting McNair’s personal life aside, however, we can use his situation as an example of what can happen when one does not engage in estate planning.

We have commented on Michael Jackson’s death and the professional estate plan he created during his lifetime. Jackson protected his children and his assets through a Will, trusts, guardianship appointments, and trustee appointments, making his intentions for his estate clear and legally binding.

From the initial reports on McNair’s death, however,  it appears that he died intestate, meaning he died without a Will. It follows that since he had no Will, McNair’s estate will be divided according to Tennessee law. Reportedly, McNair’s wife will receive 33% of the estate, and his four children will divide the rest. The courts will choose an administrator, which is likely to be his former wife.

Not being able to decide how your personal assets should be distributed is only one of the many downfalls of poor estate planning. Assuming that McNair also did not set up any trusts for his wife and children, his beneficiaries will lose a much greater share of his estate to estate taxes. This is unnecessary. McNair’s beneficiaries will also not be able to take advantage of any creditor protections or gifting advantages that trusts can provide.

Most people recognize the importance of estate planning but believe that it can be put off until some future time. No one likes to think about the possibility of an unexpected death. On the flip side, everyone benefits from estate planning. Everyone, regardless of age or income, deserves to determine the fate of their person and their property in the event that they cannot speak for themselves. Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their loved ones will be cared for, and their wishes will be carried out.