Park LaBrea News/Beverly Press, By Stephen Kramer Esq.

Many people think that estate planning is simply the writing of a will. They plan their estate because they want to control who will receive their assets after they die, preferably with as little as possible going to legal fees and taxes. A good estate plan will also protect you in the event of your incapacity. It will let you – not the courts – keep control of your assets, as well as control of decisions about your medical care when you can no longer handle your own affairs. The best time to plan your estate is now – while you can and before you need it. None of us likes to think about our own mortality or the possibility of becoming incapacitated. That is exactly why so many families are caught off guard and unprepared when incapacity or death strikes. Keep in mind that estate planning is a dynamic process. Just as people and assets and laws change, it may well be necessary to adjust your estate plan on occasion to reflect those changes.

What Is My Estate?

Your estate consists, simply of everything you own – your home, other real estate, bank accounts, investments, retirement benefits, insurance policies, death benefits, collectibles, and personal belongings. When you start adding it up you may find, like many people do, that you actually own a lot more than you think. Now, perhaps, you understand why people do estate planning.

Who Needs Estate Planning?

Whatever the size of your estate, you should consider the benefits associated with designating a person who, in the event of your incapacity, will have the responsibility for the management of your assets and your care, including the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf. If your estate is small in value, you may focus simply upon who is to receive your assets after your death and who should be in charge of its management and distribution. If your estate is larger, you will also want to consider various ways to preserve your assets for your beneficiaries and to reduce or postpone the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable at your death.