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Randall D. Armour: Don’t procrastinate in planning your estate

It's Your Money

Posted: July 8, 2009 4:35 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Procrastination is the most common reason why people do not have an estate plan. Most people understand that they should have some kind of plan but they don’t really understand all of the benefits that an estate plan can offer them. There are many reasons to avoid procrastination when it comes to estate planning. Here are 8 of them:

1. Name your beneficiaries.  The only way to make sure that your assets will pass to your intended beneficiaries is to have a properly drafted Will or Trust. If you do not have one of these documents, in most cases the state s intestacy laws will determine the distribution of all of your assets.

2. Determine how and when your assets will be distributed.  In most cases, choosing the beneficiaries is an easy decision. The problem is that some beneficiaries may not be ready to properly handle the assets due to their age or level of financial responsibility. Assets can be kept in a trust for a beneficiary and distributed according to your wishes in order to avoid squandering of the assets and protect the assets from the beneficiary s creditors.

3. Name guardians for minor children.  Regardless of the size of your estate, it essential that you determine who will raise your minor children if you can no longer do so. This is accomplished by naming a guardian in your Will or Trust.

4. Choose who will handle your estate.  If you have no estate plan, a court will generally choose the person to handle your affairs and distribute your assets.

5. Choose who will make decisions if you are disabled.  Proper estate planning includes management of your assets upon incapacity as well as death.

If you are disabled, you can name the person(s) who will have the authority to make financial and health care decisions for you.

6. Make end-of-life medical decisions.  The Terri Schiavo case in Florida illustrated how important it is to make your wishes known in an Advance Healthcare Directive which will be followed in case of a life-threatening injury, disease or illness.

7. Avoid probate.  Most people want to be able to leave their assets to the intended beneficiaries without the cost, delays and lack of privacy associated with the court process known as probate. A properly structured and funded Trust can accomplish this goal.

8. Reduce Taxes.  A properly drafted estate plan may reduce income taxes for you and your family and can reduce or eliminate any estate taxes that might otherwise be payable upon your death.

Proper estate planning can ensure that you and your family are taken care of in times of need. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you come up with a plan that achieves your goals, both personal and financial.

Attorney Randall D. Armour practices in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration. He can be contacted at (661) 259-0003 or visit “It’s Your Money” appears Thursdays and rotates between a handful of the valley’s financial professionals. His column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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