Who Needs an Estate Plan?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that estate planning is only for the older generation. But the truth is that everyone needs some form of estate planning. It should be part of a well-conceived overall financial plan for anyone who owns assets, such as real property. And it's absolutely essential if you have children.

If you really don't own much property, a simple will or trust may be enough to satisfy your needs. If your assets are substantial or your situation somewhat complex, you might require a small booklet of documents to accomplish your goals. Most people, however, will fall somewhere between those two extremes, needing no more than a handful of carefully-crafted estate-planning tools to achieve their objectives.

Listed below are a dozen good reasons why everyone should have a comprehensive, up-to-date estate plan that addresses their own unique social and financial concerns:

  1. To ensure that your estate is transferred to those that you want to receive it upon your death.
  2. To reduce or eliminate the burden of estate- and other taxes on your spouse, children and other beneficiaries.
  3. To assure the prompt, economical and private distribution of your estate without the excessive involvement and expense of courts, attorneys and others.
  4. To ensure that your desires and preferences are honored if you should become incapacitated. In most states, you can designate a personal guardian to carry out your wishes.
  5. To arrange for the support and care of minor children in the event of a parent's death.
  6. To reduce or eliminate the likelihood of disputes over the distribution of your estate.
  7. Estate planning can be combined with savings-, investment-, retirement- and long-term care planning, as well as inter vivos (during your lifetime) gift-giving to individuals and organizations; to form a comprehensive tax-saving financial plan for the preservation of your wealth, the protection and continued operation of your business; and the accomplishment of other goals.
  8. If you have life and disability insurance, they should be part of an estate plan. In addition to providing for the payment of your debts and the support of your family in the event of your death, these tools can also help you plan for your later years while you're still here.
  9. As part of your estate plan, you can choose an executor and/or trustees to carry out your wishes. You can make arrangements with this person to minimize expenses, so that your estate doesn't have to pay exorbitant administration costs, leaving more for those that you intend to receive it.
  10. Your estate plan can also provide for your funeral arrangements, so that your wishes are carried out, and the burden on your family is eased during that difficult time.
  11. Your estate plan can benefit a charitable, educational, or religious cause, while at the same time easing the tax burden on your estate.
  12. Estate planning can also have benefits today. Some types of trusts provide current income-tax deductions. Other instruments can aid in planning for your kids' college tuition or the care of elderly parents. And not to be overlooked, the work necessary to complete an estate plan requires that you organize your records and financial life, which is always desirable and advantageous.

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