Estate planning: Putting loved ones first

In both wills and trusts, a common starting point is property. In a last will and testament, for example, the testator may specifically identify property and how it will be distributed. A trust offers more flexibility, as the trustee is bound by the terms of the trust document, which may contain instructions about when distributions should be made to the beneficiaries.

Yet a recent article reminds us that, for many, estate planning is to benefit an individual's loved ones. Thus, making a list of beneficiaries and their anticipated needs may be a more logical starting point than compiling an inventory of assets. From there, appropriate estate planning choices can be made. Estate planning can be about more than just distributing assets or tax savings.

However, an attorney that focuses on estate planning would remind individuals to also include themselves in that list of beneficiaries. Although everyone wants to leave assets to their heirs, some careful planning may be required to avoid having one’s resources depleted by long-term care costs. Without an estate plan, an unexpected incapacitation that requires ongoing care might quickly eliminate one’s savings. Tools like powers of attorney, health care directives and revocable living trusts can plan for that contingency.

Another consideration in estate planning is one’s privacy. The process of probate -- usually required for a will -- is generally a matter of public record. Trusts avoid that public spectacle by appointing a trustee.

Take action now to protect your investments. A successful estate plan is usually not a matter of chance. With the help of an attorney, individuals can make choices that will plan for their own future, as well as their loved one’s.

Source: Huffington Post, “Death Deal: Will or Revocable Living Trust?” Terry Savage, Sept. 22, 2014

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