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Is having an estate plan important?

How should I go about creating an estate plan?

Any information about estate planning would be useful.

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    To begin would require a lot more information: what country? Age? Married? Kids? Size of estate? Do you own any businesses? What investment do you have? So far the level of detail you have provided would require a book to answer. – mhoran_psprep Jul 1 '12 at 19:49
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Yes, an estate plan can be very important.

Estate planning - typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.

In general, your "estate" includes all of your assets, less all debt, plus death benefits from all life insurance policies not held in an irrevocable trust. The biggest reason to have an estate plan is to make sure that your personal values about both medical and personal finance financial matters are honored in the event that death or incapacity prevents you from acting for yourself. In addition, tax minimization is a further and very important goal of estate planning for persons with taxable estates. To create an estate plan for yourself or update an existing plan, you will most likely need the services of an estate planning attorney.

When you consult with an estate planning attorney, the attorney considers how you want assets distributed to heirs, what taxes might your estate be liable for and whether there are tax-minimization strategies that would be appropriate and appealing; what your preferences and values are with respect to the management of medical and financial affairs in the event of incapacity; and any complicating family issues. To deal with these issues, your attorney will need full and accurate information about you, including:

  • Demographic Information: spouses, children, date of residency in the state, date of marriage(s), country of citizenship, whether you have previously made taxable gifts and if you are a beneficiary or a trustee of an existing trust.
  • Financial Information: a detailed list of what you own and owe, life insurance policies on your life, business interests, and how each asset is currently titled.
  • Personal Finance Circumstances: special issues for the attorney to consider—e.g., potential inheritances, creditor problems, a strong desire to give gifts, potential family disputes, medical concerns, or any uncertainty that you may have about your current estate plan.
  • Personal Finance Preferences: your wishes for end of life medical care, for how your wealth will be distributed to heirs, and for how much planning you are interested in doing to minimize taxes.

When an estate plan is created, be sure you understand what the attorney is saying. Estate planning ideas can be confusing. It is also appropriate and expected for you to ask about the attorney's fee for any legal service.

Some articles and resources:

Get ahead of your estate planning

Estate Planning by CBA

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