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Part II: What your estate plan can do for you

In our last post, we discussed some of the important things that an estate plan can do for you, and why you really need one. This time, we’ll touch on five more reasons why an estate plan is vital for everyone. 

As a quick recap, our last post dealt with family protection, probate, incapacity planning, cost-cutting and executor selections.  

  1. Making difficult decisions ahead of time – an estate plan is ideal to set out plans for a memorial or funeral, including specifications about whether a service is wanted, preferred disposition of remains (e.g., burial or cremation), preferred music, poetry or verses, and how things should be funded. You could, for example, have a small life insurance policy earmarked to pay for final arrangements. Making these decisions yourself saves your loved ones from having to concentrate on such things while still processing their own grief. 
  2. Make charitable designations – an important part of estate planning for the civic-minded or philanthropic person is leaving funds for a beloved charity, educational institution or cause. You can dictate how much of your estate's assets should go to your favorite charities or schools, as well as any terms/conditions that should be followed in order for them to receive the funds.
  3. Avoid or reduce tax burdens – careful estate planning can, for many people, significantly reduce or even eliminate so-called “death taxes.” Any remaining taxes or financial consequences could be accounted for with other estate funds, reducing the overall burden on your loved ones and allowing more of your hard-earned assets to be transferred to your heirs.
  4. Provide for vulnerable loved ones – through the use of such vehicles as special needs trusts, you can set aside funds for the care of special needs children, siblings or other relatives. These can even be structured in such a way as to preserve eligibility for important government benefits like Medicare or Medicaid, as well as Veterans benefits.
  5. Business succession – we’ve talked in-depth in previous posts about the importance of business succession planning, particularly for family-owned businesses and close corporations. If you have a family business, your estate plan is a vital part of that business' documentation, and will ensure that your company continues to thrive for future generations.

If you have an estate of any size, you need an estate plan. This is not only to protect your assets, but to ensure that someone who you trust has the ability to make important decisions for you in the event of your disability or incapacity. To get started on your estate plan, or to make changes to an existing plan you made before your life circumstances changed, contact an experienced local estate planning attorney today.

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