Estate planning is the process by which a person arranges the transfer and disposition of ones property in anticipation of death. An estate is considered the total property, both real and personal, owned by the decedent prior to distribution per the terms of a trust or will.
A last will and testament permits you to determine what happens to your property when you die and, if you have minor children, who should be appointed their guardian. Without a will or estate planning, state laws and the courts will make these decisions for you.
Wills should be reviewed by an attorney at least every five-to-seven years and upon any significant change in you’re family situation such as marriage, birth of child, death of close relative.
Many people choose to use a living trust as an integral part of their estate planning.
Property placed in a living trust during your lifetime can pass to your loved ones immediately upon your death and without incurring the additional costs normally associated with the probate process.
Furthermore, using a trust offers greater flexibility in planning how and when your beneficiaries will take possession of your property. For example, you could establish a trust that would provide you and your spouse with income for the rest of your lives, with the trust property passing to your children and grandchild after the death of both of you.
Trusts are especially useful if you have minor children, because you can have the trust continue on after your death until all of your children complete their formal educations or until they reach the age of majority.
With respect to your will, make sure you have additional copies made and choose a friend or family member to hold on to it until your death. Your lawyer should also maintain a copy. Keep in mind that, in many states, safe deposit boxes are often sealed at the time of death and are not opened until the bank receives formal instructions from the probate court.
It is also a good idea to leave a letter of instructions for your survivors to follow after your death. The letter should spell out your funeral wishes, including what kind of a funeral or memorial service you desire, what you wish to happen to your remains and, if you desire to be buried or cremated. Some people even specify what music they want played at their funeral. Others leave videos to be played or important writings to be read.
Your letter of instructions should also list the people to be contacted immediately after your death, giving their addresses and telephone numbers, and where your will and other key papers can be found. Do not place the letter of instructions in your safe deposit box. Give the letter to a trusted friend or relative or leave it where it will easily and quickly be found in the event of your death.
For more information on estate planning, wills, trusts and the law of probate, visit GotTrouble.com