Wills and Estate Planning

When the topic of estate planning is discussed, many people think that it is only for the wealthy. This is a common misconception. Wills and Estate Planning is not only about minimizing the tax bite on family assets, but it is also about asset protection planning, the management of your assets upon disability, caring for family members, especially minor children, and maintaining control over health care decisions.

We all recognize that planning for the future is important, but we usually don’t feel a sense of urgency to get it done.  We think that we will have time to tackle our plans in the future. Unfortunately, life can change in a heartbeat. It is not a question of if, but when a sudden accident or illness happens it will test how well you are prepared.  In fact, it is never to soon to start your estate planning.

I would like to address basics of estate planning in order to help you to answer questions you need to address in order to put your plan in place.

Testamentary Substitutes

At your death, your property can be transferred in one of three ways. Certain assets, sometimes referred to as non-probate assets or testamentary substitutes, will be distributed without reference to your Will or supervision by the Probate Court. Non-Probate assets include:

  1. Assets owned jointly with rights or survivorship will pass to the surviving joint owner.
  2. Life insurance proceeds will be paid to the beneficiaries you designate in the policy or beneficiary form.
  3. IRAs, 401(K)s, pension, profit-sharing and Keogh accounts will be paid to the beneficiaries you designate on the beneficiary form.

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