Estate planning is the process through which one is able to make certain his or her property and health care wishes are met in the case of death or incapacitation. Estate planning involves making decisions concerning the transfer of one’s property at death as well as various decisions concerning health care, retirement, and other personal matters.
An estate is all property owned or controlled by a person, either in his/ her name, a partnership, a trust, or a joint ownership. It also includes any other money generated in the event of the person’s death, such as life insurance. An estate includes:
Real estate and all things attached (a house, barn, etc.)
Personal property (bank accounts, stocks and other securities, cash, automobiles, jewelry, etc.)
Businesses and business interests (corporations, joint ventures, business property, etc.)
Powers of appointment (the right to direct who gets what)
Pension benefits, annuity contracts, life insurance, etc.
Estate planning is important because it ensures that your wishes will be carried out in the event of your incapacitation or death. You should consider planning your estate if you:
Have a child, or children that are minors
Possess property that you care about
Care about your future health care treatment
If you meet any of the above descriptions, planning your estate can benefit you in many different ways. Potential benefits include:
Being able to provide for your immediate family. Life insurance is a key way to provide for a surviving spouse or minor children.
Deciding guardianship for minor children. In order to ensure that your children receive the education and upbringing you want, be certain that you choose potential guardians instead of leaving it up to a court.
Providing for other relatives who need financial help or direction. Establishing a trust fund ensures that relatives will have the money and aid that they need.
Avoiding probate and make sure that loved ones get property quickly and without trouble.
Planning for your incapacity. Powers of attorney or living wills ensure that decisions concerning your health care are made in accordance with your wishes.
Minimizing expenses due to property transfer.
Choosing executors or trustees for your estate, which gives authority to individuals which you would like to administer your estate.
Planning your funeral ahead of time to ease emotional or financial strain on your loved ones.
Supporting charitable causes while taking advantage of tax laws which encourage philanthropy.
Reducing the amount of money the government takes from your estate and ensuring your loved ones get as much as they can.
Making certain your business or businesses continue to operate correctly.
Estate planning is often undertaken by individuals, however, to plan your estate well, you should find an experienced estate planning attorney to help you through the process. Aside from drafting a will, estate planning takes a lot of work that is often detail-oriented and time consuming. Hiring an estate planning attorney will make certain that nothing is overlooked and everything is done correctly. An attorney can help ensure that your property is transferred to those you have identified with as little trouble as possible, minimize potential taxes and fees, help you avoid the probate process, and direct arrangements once you die or if you should you ever become incapacitated.
Generally, people avoid using attorneys due to financial reasons. When planning your estate, however, it is important to hire an estate planning attorney not only to be sure everything is done correctly, but also to save money that would otherwise be lost on taxes, fees, or spent on probate court.