What is Estate Planning?

You may believe that the term “estate planning” refers to the management of affairs for those who are wealthy. However, everyone has an estate. Your estate is merely everything you own. Whether it be a house, car, boat, investments, or your personal possessions, it all is considered your “estate”. It does not matter how much or how little you own, it is all yours – until you pass away.

Are you concerned about what people or organizations will receive your assets? If you are, then you need to provide instructions stating who you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. You will, of course, want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

That is the basis of estate planning; to memorialize now, who you want to receive your assets, in what amounts, under what conditions and when to receive them. Doing this now will make it easier on all involved later. In addition to ensuring the orderly distribution of your assets, proper estate planning may (and in many cases, should) also:

  • Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
  • Name guardians for minor children.
  • Establish a trust for a minor so that someone can exercise fiscal responsibility until the child becomes independent.
  • Provide for family members with special needs without disqualifying them from government benefits.
  • Protect a child from his own spending habits or protect against an unscrupulous child-in-law.
  • Deal with business succession.

Your physical wellbeing is at least as important as your financial comfort, and therefore, estate planning should also include planning for health. It can provide legal documentation to protect you in the event that you become incompetent or ill and cannot direct your own medical care and/or your own financial decisions. Estate planning is crucial for peace of mind because it allows you to minimize disputes between your beneficiaries, minimize applicable taxes for your heirs, and choose the right people to help you make financial and medical decisions in the event you cannot.

While everyone’s estate planning needs will differ, estate planning can help families prepare for both the present and the future through the use of basic documents such as Last Will and Testaments, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and Health Care Proxies, as well as more advanced documents such as Irrevocable and Revocable Trusts. Our firm will discuss your individual estate planning goals and devise a plan based upon your goals. Be sure to click on our “Practice Areas” page to get a more detailed description of each of those documents.