What Is An Estate Plan?

By Myka Landry

Most people think of an estate plan as a set of documents that are filled with legalese and give some vague set of directions as to what will happen to their property upon death. In reality, estate planning is much more than that.

Estate planning involves taking an inventory of all your assets and liabilities, and determining what you want to happen in the event of death or incapacity. Estate planning documents are a roadmap to accomplish your wishes. Keep in mind, some assets may not be distributed by your will because of the way they are owned or titled, such as a living trust or joint tenancy of a property. A good estate plan will make sure these situations are handled correctly.

If you were to become incapacitated, it is important that you have selected someone who will handle your finances and make health-care decisions for you. If you do not have a plan, the court will appoint someone. This often results in family discord, which can lead to a long and expensive court battle. It also may result in court supervision of your affairs and even the court making decisions. An estate plan ensures that a person you have chosen will make the decisions and gives him/her guidelines as to your wishes.

The most important aspect of any estate plan is ensuring that you understand exactly what will happen and what it means. Although many of the documents will contain “legalese” to ensure they are understood by the legal profession, many estate planning attorneys will include a summary, in plain language, describing how your estate plan works.

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