Estate planning isn’t only for the wealthy, nor is it a topic people enjoy thinking about. But if you own something of value you would like to pass on to loved ones or charity, start thinking about creating an estate plan today.
An estate plan, which includes items like a will, living trust and living will, helps organize and distribute your money and belongings to the people and organizations you want them to go to.
Take the time while you are healthy to think through some of the difficult decisions that come with estate planning and therefore help reduce the chances that your family will be taken advantage of when it comes time to deal with your estate.
BBB offers the following guidance on the basic components of an estate plan:
At the very least, anyone who has assets to pass on to specific individuals should create a will. A will can allocate assets as well as establish guardianship of children. Most wills have to go through probate after the individual’s death. In probate, a court oversees the payment of any debts and distributes inheritances - the process can last several months.
While a trust might sound like a tool for the wealthy, it’s for anyone who would like to set conditions on how and when his or her assets are distributed. A trust can also help reduce the amount of taxes paid on the inheritance and, unlike a will, does not have to go through probate. A trust may be necessary if you want to give your child or grandchild their inheritance over time, rather than in a lump sum, and restrict how the money can be spent.
A living will provides a way for an individual to communicate his or her desire for life-saving measures in case of incapacitation. In addition to a living will, individuals can also assign medical power of attorney to someone they trust who can further ensure that their wishes are fulfilled.
For simple estates, many websites offer an inexpensive, do-it-yourself approach to creating a will. However, it’s best to enlist the help of a lawyer for more complicated estates.
Keep in mind that a great deal of personal and financial information will be needed to set up your plan. You really need to have complete confidence and trust in the lawyers, estate planners, accountants or others who will be involved in organizing your needs, so be sure to research any estate planning companies or lawyers with BBB first before paying for their assistance.
While no one enjoys thinking about death, those who don’t take the time to create an estate plan are leaving it up to someone else to decide where their assets should go when they pass away.
NOVEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
NOVEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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