Do you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop or personal computer? Most people in Arkansas have some form of technology close at hand. Those in the know are aware that they can customize the settings on these devices to deliver an experience that meets their particular tastes. Those technically challenged might rely on the default settings from the factory.

Your computerized tool will function with the default settings, but it might not do all you hope for. To get the most out of your technology it helps to work with someone with trusted skills. The same goes in maximizing the tools available for estate planning. To get the results you really desire takes more than just expressing your good intentions or wishes.

It is widely accepted that more than half of all Americans don’t take advantage of the tools at hand to customize how the assets they have managed to accumulate over the course of their lifetimes are handed off to surviving loved ones. All too often, parents will look to reassure their potential heirs that their interests will be looked after if the parents should die with verbal pledges.

If those pledges aren’t in writing in a will, or backed up by a trust, then state default rules take over. And, as we alluded to at the start of this post, the default settings may well leave a lot to be desired.

Take for example the case of a father who divorces with a minor-aged child. Not long after, he remarries and life goes on for the family with a stepmother in the picture. Jump ahead 30 years. Dad has died, and though he had always said his child would get her fair share, it turns out that the child is not in line for anything because he didn’t have a will. The stepmother, the surviving spouse, inherits and legally has no obligation to fulfill her husband’s spoken promises.

This is not a hypothetical case. And what it emphasizes is how important it is to establish a plan if for no other reason than to create a fair process of distribution.