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What is Estate Planning?

More Than Just a Will

Estate planning is a process that empowers individuals to prepare for their death or incapacity through a deliberate conversation about the transfer of assets after death and issues surrounding the end-of-life.

The outcome of a comprehensive estate plan should be a clear and unambiguous process for the transfer of assets upon a person’s death, and protection during life for unforeseen disabling medical events. Some of the documents that are often used to accomplish a comprehensive estate plan include:

Estate planning can also impact the amount of federal estate taxes paid so more assets may go to loved ones (and less to the government). When a business is involved, estate planning may also include business succession documents to ensure a non-disruptive transition of ownership.

A declaration of appointment for a guardian is essential if there are minor children and a useful tool for you as part of end-of-life planning. Such appointment may be included in a will or set out in a separate document.

Trust documents are often prepared either in place of a will or in addition to a will depending on the circumstance.

Other Asset Transfers – Non-Probate Assets

Estate planning also addresses that fact that many assets are not distributed by the terms of a will, but by beneficiary designations made in connection with bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, titled property such as automobiles and boats, and retirement accounts. A review and possible modification of these accounts are a necessarily part of the estate planning process.

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