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Some common estate planning questions, answered

Estate planning is an inherently complicated topic that can leave many people feeling confused. As such, people who are entering the estate planning process often have a lot of questions on their mind. Let's answer a few of the typical questions that get asked while planning an estate:

Why do I need a will? There are many reasons why someone needs a will, but the simplest answer is that your will dictates how your assets, wealth and other critical aspects of your life are handled upon your death or incapacitation. Not having a will means you are "intestate," and as such state laws will handle your estate given your "intestate" status. That could mean your beneficiaries won't, well, benefit in the way that you may have meant them to.

What is probate? This relates to the "intestate" status. When you die without a will, state laws determine what happens to your assets and wealth. The probate process handles these matters. Probate can be very costly and painful for your loved ones and heirs, so avoiding probate can be very beneficial. Utilizing certain rights and processes, a person can avoid probate (or at least allow certain elements of his or her estate to avoid probate).

What other elements are involved in an estate plan? A will is not the only thing, but it is arguably the most important. Trusts can also be utilized by the individual to complete his or her estate plan. Long-term care plans can also be put together to compliment what is already included in an estate plan.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Planning: Answers to Common Questions," Accessed Dec. 24, 2015

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