HE SAYS:

None of us feel comfortable contemplating our own mortality.  Of course, we all know that death is inevitable; yet, we may fail to make appropriate plans and arrangements for our families.  Since thinking about our own death makes us feel uneasy, it can be difficult to actually face that fact of life.

The easiest and, sometimes, only estate planning that needs to take place is the preparation and execution of your Last Will and Testament.

A simple Will usually is a straight forward document that leaves your real and personal property, outright, to one or more adults.   For married couples, this usually involves leaving everything to the surviving spouse; and, in the event the spouse is predeceased then to other living adults.

A more complex Will creates restrictions on the bequests of your real and personal property.  Usually, this involves the establishment of Testamentary Trusts, in the Will, so that the use and final distribution of your property can continue to be controlled from the grave.  The most common use of a Trust is for the benefit of minor children who, by law, cannot directly inherit property.

A Trust is also useful for adult children or a spouse, particularly, when you are dealing with a large estate and/or an estate that includes complicated types of property such as a business.  In this way, your wishes and guidance can continue to manifest themselves long after your death.

A Will can also make provisions for custody of your minor children, make bequests to charities, make bequests of specific property to specific friends and family members, and, generally, deal with a host of post death issues.

A Will can be used for estate tax planning.   There can be marital trusts, unified credit shelter trusts, qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts, life estates and a whole range of other devises to help minimize and/or defer your estate tax burden.

Without a Will in place, when you die, your estate is distributed according to a statutory scheme devised by your State.  This usually entails your property going to a specific set of family members in specific amounts or percentages all of which is predetermined by statute.   Most people would find this unacceptable, but, it is surprising how many people let this happen by default because they never got around to having a Will prepared.

Whether your estate is small or large, it is money well spent to hire an experienced attorney and, if necessary, an accountant to help you devise a Will and estate plan that comports with your desires for your family, addresses estate tax issues, and provides for an orderly disposition of your property after your death.   Since we are all facing the inevitable, it is wise to have a Will prepared before it is too late.

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