Estate plans aren't just for the rich and famous and if history proves that not having a good estate plan is essential, then we probably have not been paying attention. Most people avoid estate planning because they don't want to think about their mortality, but in reality, we all will die someday.
While you aren't alone in not having an estate plan, there are examples of famous and successful people who didn't have an estate plan and the ensuing problems that followed. For example, former President Lincoln did not have an estate plan and he left his financial estate in disarray and it took years to settle it.
When Sonny Bono died suddenly in a skiing accident without a trust or a will, his current wife had to manage claims from his ex-wife Cher and a child that claimed that Sonny was his father. His widow had to open a probate estate and secure permission from a probate judge to gain authority over Sonny's music rights, which contributed to his estate that was worth approximately $1.7 million.
In an estate case that took 34 years to settle, was the famous businessman Howard Hughes. During his time, he was one of the richest people in the world and his $2.5 billion estate was eventually split among 22 relatives, but a lot of litigation took place to get it resolved.
These are just a few examples of what happens when you don't have an estate plan in place. Estate planning isn't a morbid process, but a great way to make sure that your wishes are met and disputes are avoided after you are gone.
Source: Wealthmanagement.com, "Lessons of the Rich and Famous ... in Death," Jim Moniz, Dec. 24, 2012