Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Definition of the Week: Estate Planning

Estate Planning: To understand what estate planning is, we need to first ask, "What is an estate?" The word "estate" simply refers to the things you own, your assets. For example, money in a checking account is an asset you own. If you have a checking account, you have an asset and you have an estate. Equity in your house or a life insurance policy or anything else you own are additional assets comprising your estate.

Estate planning is planning how your estate will be managed when you cannot manage it yourself. If you ever become mentally incapacitated or after you die, an estate plan will control how your checking account and other assets are managed and distributed. If you want to decide who receives your assets, and how and when they receive your assets, when you cannot make those decisions in person, then estate planning is for you.

Estate planning is like building a bridge over a chasm. The chasm is a deep gorge and dangerous river of confusion, wasted money, resentments, fraud, and probate litigation. Point A on this side of the chasm is the date of your incapacity or death. At point B on the side of the chasm stand your heirs, your beneficiaries, those you care most about. Estate planning is the bridge, the road over the deep gorge and dangerous river, which is used to transfer your assets safely, efficiently, and peacefully from point A to those you care most about at point B.

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