Plan Your Legacy Q & A About Estate Planning
Estate planning is the process that ensures your property and assets will be distributed according to your wishes after your passing.
Without a will, trust or other means of distributing your property, the state steps in and decides who your heirs will be what each of them will inherit.
The state also decides who will administer your estate, how much he or she will be paid, and how that person will be bonded. If minor children survive you, the court will probably appoint a guardian for them. Money from your estate will be used to directly pay for these and all other costs.
It may be possible to make a will or trust yourself. In fact, there are a number of computer programs designed specifically for this purpose. However, laws governing wills and trusts vary widely from state to state. If these laws are not followed exactly, your will or trust may be declared invalid. If that happens, the result is the same as if you had died without any estate plan. The best way to make sure your will or trust is valid and properly expresses your wishes is to have it drawn up by an attorney.
Yes! The best way to make sure your estate plans reflect your wishes and are valid is to check them every few years. Any change in your marital status, a death or birth in the family, a move to another state or other major changes in your life or the lives of your loved ones can make a review of your estate plans necessary or desirable.
What’s expensive is not planning. If you should die without planning the distribution of your assets, the court will settle your estate. Court costs and legal fees usually far exceed what you would have had to pay a professional to plan your estate according to your wishes. By not planning, you compound the pain that your death will cause your loved ones.
Yes! Estate planning helps with the distribution of property, no matter how large or small. It’s your way to ensure that needless taxes and expenses don’t reduce your estate. Estate planning is necessary for those with few assets, as well as those with great wealth.
Yes! Many people are under the mistaken impression that they don’t need to plan for the distribution of their estate because they own “everything” jointly with their spouse. However, what would happen if you and your spouse died together or a short time apart – and the survivor never had time to make estate plans or revise plans that don’t reflect your wishes? Joint ownership is not a replacement, only a supplement to the estate planning process.
Many people are interested in remembering favorite charities or causes in their estate plans. You should contact each organization to which you are interested in leaving a gift for the proper wording to make sure your gift is used as you intended.