Estate Planning Basics

October 29, 2014 | Alliant Credit Union

An estate plan isn’t something for only upper-income families. Everyone who has anything to leave behind to loved ones – such as jewelry, a favorite piece of art, a vehicle or a home – needs an estate plan. Having one will ensure your family has a financial outline after you pass away or become incapacitated. 

There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” estate plan, but learning what an estate plan entails may help you decide if you need to work with a legal or financial professional to create yours.

Having an estate plan helps you control what happens to your property in the event of your death and helps make your wishes clear to avoid family disputes. Proper estate planning can also preserve assets and provide for loved ones.

A will is an important element of an estate plan. In this document, you can leave instructions and lists for how you would like your estate divided and who receives which assets. With a will, your heirs may need to go through a probate court to confirm how the assets of the estate are divided amongst them, but it gives your executor guidance as to how you want your funds distributed.

Another estate plan component you may want to consider is a trust. Having a trust can eliminate the need for an estate to go through probate court and typically that enables your estate's executors to resolve issues related to your estate more quickly. 

Oftentimes, when you set up your estate plan, your advisor will also recommend that you codify end-of-life planning. If you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions for your medical care, having an estate plan in place will ensure a close loved one (most commonly, a spouse or adult child) can make your medical decisions for you based on what you’ve outlined in your estate plan. The document appointing this person is called a Health Care Proxy.

To learn more about estate planning and begin the journey of planning for your heirs, please reach out to a legal or financial advisor.

If you're interested in learning more about estate planning and end-of-life medican directives, we have another blog article that shares some resources that can help you. 

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