What is Estate Planning?

You have an estate. Your estate is everything you own—car, home, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, personal possessions. However large or small, you can’t take it with you when you die.

When that happens—and it is a “when” and not an “if” — you probably care about what will be done with your estate. So you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. And this should happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

That is estate planning. But good estate planning is much more than that. It can also:

  • Include instructions for someone to manage your finances if you become disabled.
  • Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
  • Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or need protection from creditors or divorce.
  • Name someone who can help with your medical care, and make possibly life-ending decisions based on your own wishes.
  • Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.