What comprises “Estate Planning” varies from person to person; couple to couple; married, single or divorce everyone should have, at the very least, a Last Will and Testament.
A Will is the document, which sets forth your wishes when you die. Someone in the process of having a Will prepared has important decisions to make. The first decision is who do you want to take care of your estate. This person is called an Executor. The Executor is responsible for seeing that all of your outstanding bills get paid as well as collecting the assets and distributing them to your named beneficiaries. The person you choose for this important position must be someone you trust and have confidence in to carry out your wishes. It is also important to name a “successor executor” in your Will. This is needed so that if the executor named in your Will is not available to assume the position (i.e. death of the executor) there is an alternate who you want to fill this position.
If, at the time of your death, you do not have a Will, the Court will appoint someone to administer your estate. This person will be designated as the administrator. This person can be a family member or a total stranger to you and your loved one(s). In this instance, your assets will be distributed “intestacy” (someone passing without a Will) and the distribution will follow the order set forth by statute. Some or all of your assets may be distributed in a way that you would never have intended.
If you are married and have children, having a Will is a necessity and of the utmost importance. If you are the sole living parent of minor (under the age of 18 years) children, you should designate a guardian for your minor children who will be responsible for raising them to majority. If you have minor children, you should think about setting up a trust for the benefit of your minor children in your Will. This will require you to name a Trustee. The Trustee should be someone who you trust with your assets. This person will be responsible for properly supporting your children financially as you would have if you were alive.
When you hear the words “Estate Planning”, for your own benefit and for the protection of your surviving family, at a minimum, you should have a properly prepared and executed Last Will and Testament.
Preparing For the Future: Estate Planning Basics was Posted by Michael Schulman, Attorney at Law
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