Estate Planning

In this topic, you'll learn:

  • Why everyone should understand estate planning, even individuals with few assets.
  • How to start the estate planning process.
  • Why you need a will and how to make one.

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Estate planning is the process of helping to ensure that your wishes are followed in the event of your severe mental disability or death. Your plan should focus on a number of issues, including what should be done for you in a medical emergency, who will make financial decisions for you in the event you cannot, what will happen to your possessions if you die, and who will have custody of your minor children. For those with substantial assets, estate planning can also include the creation of a trust to help minimize taxes and to ensure the proper management of your assets over time.

No matter what your financial worth is now, everyone should have a plan for dealing with the unexpected. By not having a plan, decisions about your property and about you (in the case of mental incapacitation) will be made not by you or your loved ones, but through legal proceedings that may yield an outcome that is different from what you would prefer.

This content is designed to give you an overview of the issues to consider when thinking about long term financial planning. We suggest contacting an experienced attorney or financial planner when creating your own estate plan. Remember that laws surrounding the issues covered in estate planning can vary substantially from state to state.

Depending on your assets, there are other estate planning strategies to consider. You should understand the many options available for trusts, for minimizing estate taxes, and for supporting charities. We suggest contacting a financial planner or attorney who specializes in estate planning for more information on these options.

Estate planning is not something you do just once. As your life situation changes you will need to update the documents mentioned in this module or explore other estate planning options. The government also routinely changes rules regarding estate taxes, so it makes sense to periodically check in with your attorney or financial planner.

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