Estate Planning Introduction
Estate planning is creating a portfolio of legal documents which accomplishes a variety of goals. The specific goals of your estate plan should be unique to your circumstances, taking into account your assets, family situation, and requirements for the future.
Estate planning is more than just making a plan to distribute certain assets to certain people. A complete estate plan will allow you to retain control of your assets and to determine who will make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to in the future.
Advance planning, good advice, and proper assembly of important documents will all ensure that your estate is handled as easily as possible. The following issues should be considered when developing a thorough estate plan:
- Asset protection
- Probate avoidance
- Avoidance, minimization and deferral of tax liabilities
- Planning for illness or incapacity
- Selection of guardians, personal representatives and other fiduciaries
- Formation of family limited partnerships and other business entities
- Succession strategies for family businesses
A good estate plan should take into account both your personal and financial goals. For example, some families may need a trust to manage and distribute assets to minor children.
Many families are surprised to learn that their net worth, including assets and life insurance proceeds, makes estate planning a paramount concern.
All assets of any value should be considered when developing an estate plan, including real estate, business and farm interests, investments, retirement plans, life insurance proceeds, personal property, art or other collections, cash and personal effects.
Your estate plan will be formulated by taking into consideration the fair market value of your assets, how you own them legally (whether you hold them separately, as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship or as a tenant in common), their growth potential, their liquidity, and what assets should be passed to specific individuals.
Your estate plan will provide you with the comfort of knowing that your wishes will be carried out should anything happen to you in the future. This benefits not only you, but also your family members, who otherwise may face the burden of making choices for you without your input.
Preparation for the Estate Planning
Most attorneys have their own "intake form" or form that they want you to fill out to make sure that you have all your assets and liabilities of your estate covered. If so, be sure to follow that form closely.
If you don't have one, or would like to start some preliminary work, we have provided a comprehensive form that will allow you to answer most questions that your attorney will have and assemble your documents. Click here to load the SeniorMag Estate Planning form. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view this document.
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