Getting Your Ducks in a Row Through Estate Planning
Published On: June 24, 2010
What Is Estate Planning?
Getting your ducks in a row — that’s what estate planning really means! Depending on the nature of your assets and future needs, the process of estate planning can be simple or complex. Surprisingly, estate planning involves more (much more) than simply writing a will. In fact your estate plan, which should include the creation of a trust, is a dynamic plan which addresses many issues including:
- Your family
- Other individuals
- Charitable organizations
- Your property (assets) and the many types of ownership and title that your property may take
- Financial planning
- Medical planning
- Tax planning
- Business planning and/or
- Future needs if you’re ever incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for yourself
Why Estate Planning Is So Important To You
Who will be in charge of your medical decisions should you suddenly become incapacitated by a heart attack or stroke? Do you want heroic measures taken or do you NOT want heroic measures taken. Without an advance health directive, you’re leaving your fate in the hands of others (who may be well-intentioned but do not know your wishes). What if you want to be resuscitated but you don’t have the ability to communicate that message? What if you don’t want this sign over your hospital bed?
Plan, plan, plan.
It will come as no shock to you when I say that we live in an uncertain world. So while you’re still of sound mind it is important that you plan for the future. Through an estate plan, you can determine many things:
- What if you become incapacitated? Your estate plan will define
- How and by whom will your assets be managed for your benefit during the remainder of your lifetime
- Who will take care of your minor children
- How you will be cared for
- Who will make your health care decisions with direction as to what those health care decisions shall be (don’t leave it to chance)
- At what point it will make sense to distribute your assets during your lifetime
- Who will get your assets after your death – and by what means?
- How your assets will be managed after your death
- What happens to your remains after you die
Simply Put: You Need An Estate Plan
Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter if your estate is large or small. You, your children, your grandchildren and your assets must be protected and provided for as determined by you.
- Small Estate: Your plan may focus on
- Who will receive your assets after your death
- Who will manage your estate
- Who will pay your final debts
- Who will handle distribution of your assets
- Large Estate: Your lawyer will discuss plan and focus on the small estate issues PLUS
- Ways to preserve assets for your beneficiaries
- Ways to reduce / postpone amount of estate tax that may otherwise be payable upon
What If You Don’t Have An Estate Plan?
Wow, not having an estate plan pretty much leaves it up to a judge to pick someone to handle your assets and your personal care. Your estate will go through the lengthy and uncertain process called probate. Your assets will be distributed to your heirs per the rules of intestacy (dying without a will).
Your assets will not necessarily go to the state. In fact, per the rules of intestate succession your assets will go to your relatives, no matter how remote!
With an estate plan, it is your choice as to whom your assets go after your death. You have control of care of your minor children, your own care, distribution and control of your assets during your life and after your death, handling of your remains and a host of other issues.
What’s Actually In My Estate?
All of your assets are in your estate. Those assets may be
- Bank accounts
- Real estate
- Personal property
- Life insurance proceeds
- Retirement accounts
- Inheritance still owed to you
- Tax refunds still due you