While our eventual death is something that no one wants to think about, it is a fact of life. Proper estate planning can ensure that a person’s assets are distributed as they wish, while avoiding a situation in which those assets are squandered in the probate process after death. Estate planning can also help avoid tension within a family, as even the closest family may disagree over distribution of a loved one’s belonging (especially those of sentimental value).
Wills, Trusts, and Life Insurance
The right way to handle estate planning will vary for each person and each situation. Factors such as children, a spouse, assets, debts, etc., will all influence the analysis when determining the best approach to take. Many estate plans include a Will, which handles many aspects of property distribution and the appointment of an executor for the estate. In some cases, it is best to partially (or nearly fully) avoid the probate process by using a Trust. Life insurance is generally not something that passes through probate, although there are situations where some or all of the proceeds from a life insurance policy may be payable to the estate.
For people who own a business, part of the estate planning process should include business succession. Often, a business makes up a large part of a person’s assets and is vital to their family’s financial well-being. Making arrangements for an orderly succession may be just as important as personal estate planning. Indeed, in some industries, there is even an ethical duty on the part of the business owner to make those arrangements, so as to ensure that the clients of the business are not harmed.
Avoiding unnecessary probate expense and hassle
When a person dies without having properly handled estate planning, the result can be a lengthy and expensive probate process that consumes a large portion of the estate. That is especially true when relatives bicker over who would receive particular assets. Avoiding that expense and strife within the family is a major goal of estate planning.
There is no time like the present for estate planning
Estate planning is something that is best handled long before a person worries about imminent death, for two reasons. The first is that accidents do sadly happen, and so none of us can accurately predict our lifespans. The second is that estate planning is both easier and more effective when done with a clear head, rather than from a hospital or hospice. Remember, estate planning is for everyone – not just the super-wealthy.
Our firm handles estate planning matters in both Iowa and Illinois. Feel free to contact us using the information shown above to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.