Three Things Everyone Should Know about Estate Planning

Posted on: 19 June 2015


Too many people put off estate planning because they don't think that they have enough assets. However, almost everyone has an estate—even if it is a modest one—and having a detailed estate plan ensures that your family doesn't spend months dealing with probate court after your death. So, even though it's unpleasant, you need to take some time to think about your death and what happens to your estate afterwards.

Having a Will Doesn't Avoid Probate Court

Your will tells your family what to do with your belongings after your death, however, simply having a will doesn't mean that your family won't have to deal with your state's probate court. Before any assets can be distributed to your heirs, all assets have to pass through the state's probate process. Fortunately, you can avoid probate court by having a revocable living trust included in your estate plan. When you have a revocable living trust, all of your assets are placed in the trust after your death. The trust is managed by the trustee that you've appointed until the beneficiaries reach the age at which you want them to inherit. Not only does placing your assets into a trust avoid the lengthy probate process, but it also allows you to continue to provide care for loved ones with special needs, protects your assets from your beneficiaries' spouses and creditors, and helps to eliminate irresponsible spending.

Estate Plans Detail Events Other Than Your Death

When most people think about estate planning, they automatically assume that the plan they create isn't useful until their death. However, estate plans cover several different aspects of your life. In addition to detailing your after-death instructions, a good estate plan will include instructions for your care if you were to become disabled before you die  a living will, and name a guardian for any minor children.

Estate Planning is an Ongoing Process

Many people think that estate planning is something that you do after you retire, but it's not. Everyone, regardless of age, needs an estate plan because there is no way to determine how long you will live and whether or not you might become disabled. The fact is, estate planning isn't something that you do once in your life. It's an ongoing process. You should review your estate plan every couple of years and make any adjustments needed. Your estate plan also needs to be adjusted when you acquire new assets or when a life-changing event, such as having a baby or getting married, occurs.

Estate planning gives your family peace of mind after your death. A good estate plan distributes assets the way you've instructed, but also keeps your family out of probate court and ensures that they are still provided for after your death.