When people think of estate planning, they tend to focus on the distribution of an individual's assets and other property when he or she passes away. Although that's certainly a component of estate planning, there's much more that a person can do to ensure that his or her intentions and wishes are honored in the case of mental incapacity or upon passing away. This section provides resources related to estate planning, including a discussion of estate laws, tips for creating an estate plan, and an explanation of how probate works.
Why Estate Planning Is Important
Estate planning allows a person to make decisions that include medical treatment care options and the distribution of property when he or she passes away. Planning ahead provides time to carefully consider and review estate decisions and to create tailored plans that preempt any disputes. As a side benefit, a person who plans ahead will become knowledgeable about important issues such as estate taxes. Keep in mind that estate plans can generally be amended, so you needn't fear being locked into a "rough draft" plan that's created early on in life.
The Risks If You Don't Plan
A person who doesn't plan his or her estate runs the risk of family members fighting over property and over difficult decisions such as end-of-life care. If a dispute over the estate goes to court, expenses can quickly add up, the process can be painfully slow, and in extreme cases, family relationships can be ruined. Land can be troublesome to divide, with the problem compounded if some family members want to sell, against the wishes of other family members.
Types of Estate Plans
As many people know, planning an estate involves the distribution of real property, bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, and/or other assets a person owns when he or she passes away. However, estate planning also includes trusts, school tuition accounts, and other plans that can take effect during a person's lifetime, and remember that medical care and end-of-life decisions are also forms of estate planning. This section provides an overview of common estate plans, and an attorney can help you to fully understand the plan options available to you.
Factors to Consider
The various forms of estate plans have their unique features and benefits. For example, one type of plan may provide advantageous tax benefits compared to another plan, and certain requirements may apply to one type of plan but not to another. Along with the federal government, states have passed estate laws, and it's important to understand the laws that apply as you begin planning. If you do so, you can minimize costs and tax payments while tailoring a plan that suits your needs and carries out your intentions.
How an Attorney Can Help
An attorney can help you to understand the basics of estate planning, and he or she can help you to create a plan that reflects your wishes. This section provides information for consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.