Why Plan Your Estate ?
The knowledge that we will eventually die is one of the things that distinguishes humans from other living beings. At the same time, no one likes to swell on the prospect of his or her own death. But if you, your parents and other loved ones postpone planning until it is too late, you runt the risk that your intended beneficiaries – those you love the most – may not receive all that you would hope.
We should begin a discussion of estate planning with a consideration of what "estate" and "estate plan" mean. An "estate" is simply everything a person owns: bank accounts, stock, real estate, motor vehicles, jewelry, household furniture, retirement plans, life insurance. An "estate plan" is the means by which the estate is passed to the next generation. This can be accomplished through a variety of instruments. Most retirement plans and life insurance policies pass to named beneficiaries, chosen when you take out the policy or at a later date. Property that is jointly owned passes to the surviving joint owner. Trust assets are distributed according to the terms of the trust. Property held in an individuals name alone comes under the instructions laid out in a will, or in the absence of will, under the rules of "intestacy" set out in state law.
Problems often arise when people don’t coordinate all of these methods of passing on their estate. A well-drafted estate plan also permits you to save as much as possible on taxes, court costs and attorneys’ fees. Most importantly, it affords the comfort that your love ones can mourn your loss without being simultaneously burdened with unnecessary red tape and financial confusion………