Your Will Is The Core Of Estate Planning

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                                                Your Will Is The Core Of Estate Planning
                                                                  By Catherine Ford

   An estate plan is a legal system for the disposal of your property upon your death. It recognizes
your wishes, such as those regarding the care of minors, and it legally minimizes taxes. It can take into
account your views regarding future medical care; for example, it may state you have no wish to have
your life sustained by a life support machine. Estate planning may or may not involve tax planning. The
single most important document associated with estate planning is a will.

If you own property, there are basic questions which need to be answered upon your death. If these
answers are not set out in the form of a will, then the courts have the right to decide what happens to
your assets. The end result may well coincide with your wishes, but often it will not. If you have
children, then you will need to make clear your wishes about their guardianship in the event of your
untimely death. Who should inherit your personal belongings? Do you have any special bequests? Do
you have anyone you wish to exclude from your will that would automatically inherit as a result of the
law of succession?

If you die without a will you are said to die "intestate," and others have the right to say what happens to
your assets. The value of your estate will be substantially reduced, as professionals such as
accountants and lawyers will argue as to what the law of succession means.

Many people feel that they need to be old or wealthy to have a will. However, this is a misconception.
How does anyone know when he or she will die? You may have wealth that you are not considering.
Have you correctly evaluated the insurance and assurance policies that you hold? Perhaps you have
intellectual property, for instance, copyrights. Or you may have latent wealth bequeathed to you in
another person's will. You need to consider all your assets whether you are young or old, wealthy or

The earlier in life that you make a will, the easier it is for you to review and change your plans. As your
life evolves, the expectations change for the different stages of your life. Death for the survivors is a
traumatic, emotional experience, but a will makes it easier to cope. Wills are a valid legal document,
but they are not written in stone. Circumstances change during the course of your life, and a codicil can
be added to a will to reflect your changes.

Once you have your will, it is possible to make decisions regarding other matters, in particular, trust

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funds, taxes, and the costs of probate. Probate oversees the transfer of your assets. Probate is the
legal process of proving a will, appointing an executor, and settling you estate according to your
wishes; but by custom, it has come to be understood as the legal process whereby a dead person's
estate is administered and distributed. Probate costs and taxes can diminish the assets passed on to
your beneficiaries. You may want to consider setting up trusts to minimize your probate costs and tax
liabilities in order to maximize your bequeathed assets. Trusts can avoid probate, but they also can be
used as an instrument to transfer assets while you are still alive.

Whether you want just a simple will or a will, codicils, and trusts, the time to plan the disposal of your
estate is now. It is a mistake to delay your estate planning in this uncertain world. Take care of your
planning now to assert and safeguard your own decisions about your assets.

Catherine Ford is a freelance writer for, a site with information on senior finances and other interests of seniors. Visit

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 A Living Trust and Will Must Be Reviewed Every 4 to 5 Years to Ensure That They Are Current
                                                            By Mitchell Miller

 Estate planning documents must be reviewed every four or five years to ensure that a will and living
trust are current. What could change so that your estate planning documents are no longer current?

Possible changes in state and federal laws:

- State and federal laws are constantly changing, both because Congress and state legislatures make
changes and because the courts render decisions that affect tax-saving or estate-planning techniques.

- For example, in 2009 the federal estate tax exemption is scheduled to go to $3,500,000. In 2010,
estate taxes may be repealed altogether. On the other hand, there is a good possibility that estate
taxes may be raised in 2009. Does an old estate plan provide the flexibility to deal with any of these

Possible changes in personal circumstances:

Here are some of the possible changes in personal circumstances that could affect how current are
your estate planning documents:

- You may have had a new child, or you may have decided to change who you named as the guardian
of your children.

- You may have gotten divorced or remarried.

- You may have received an inheritance, putting your estate into a range where some advanced estate
planning techniques would be a benefit.

- You may have bought a different house or commercial property and forgotten to transfer that new
property into your existing trust.

- You may have finally decided who gets Uncle Harry's coin collection or Grandma's china.

- There can be any number of other changes that can affect your current estate plans.

Difficulties of going through a review of estate planning documents: For many people, making the
decisions required for estate planning documents is difficult. These decisions often require
contemplating scenarios that can be uncomfortable. So when a client has finally signed his or her
estate planning documents, there's a big sense of relief - as well as the desire not to think of these
decisions again.

But there are consequences of not reviewing estate planning documents every few years: If estate
plans are not reviewed every few years or a personal situation changes, a surviving spouse or heirs
can be in deep muck. It's important to keep estate planning documents current to save loved ones
from avoidable problems.

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The above information is NOT legal advice, only considerations for you to discuss with your own estate
planning attorney. The providing of this material does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Watch a short free video on the home page of Mitchell R. Miller's information site at . You'll learn why you need a living trust in addition to a will in
order to avoid probate.  And get a free copy of 4 Important Questions You Should Ask About a
Living Trust prepared by Mitchell R. Miller. is a subsidiary of .

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