When people hear the phrase “estate plan”, they think that it is just for the very wealthy or elderly. But, it is not. Estate planning puts you in greater control of the financial and healthcare decisions that directly affect the lives of you and your family.
An estate plan allows you to protect the assets that you have built up throughout your lifetime by allowing you to arrange things in a way to minimize taxes. It also allows you to state how you want your assets to be distributed after your death and will allow you to detail who will manage your estate and who will care for your dependent children. An estate plan can also include special situations such as care of a disabled child, parents or charities.
Even if you do not complete an estate plan, you still have one, but it will probably not be exactly what you would have intended. That’s because the laws of the state in which you live will dictate who your heirs are, how your money will be distributed and who will assume responsibility for your children, regardless of your undocumented wishes.
This post highlights what occurs when you die without a will: When No “Last Will Exists”.
More often than not, the court’s decisions are not the same as those that you would have desired. This can cause undue stress and confusion for your loved ones.
When I was planning my own will, I decided that I would specify each item that I wished to give to my daughters. The attorney who was drafting our will seemed a bit perplexed as to my specific desire to make sure that all of my precious items were itemized.
The simple reason (and one that I still stand by) was based from my own experience. I wanted to ensure that if something were to happen to me, and my husband Dan decides to remarry, that his new wife could not have my valuables including the diamond ring. Of course, its sounds crazy but the root of this premise is perfectly logically.
My mother had passed away when I was very young, and my father had held on to most of her jewelry. He had remarried and I never asked for any of her jewelry. I had wanted to make sure that my daughters had received the items specifically chosen for them by me. Unfortunately, my mother was not granted much time to decide any of these issues. Many of our decisions as we get older are rooted in our own experiences during our younger years.
The thought of planning your estate may be uncomfortable and most people may procrastinate and postpone the process. But, if you want to control who and where your estate (and, in my case, my jewelry) ends up, you need to plan accordingly.
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