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Estate planning basics: Part II

In our last blog post we discussed the benefits of drafting both a last will and testament and a living will. In this post, we'll continue to discuss essential estate planning topics including the purpose and benefits of a trust and how to discuss important estate planning matters with children and heirs.

In addition to a will, an individual may want to consider establishing one or more trusts. A trust provides an individual more control over how assets are distributed. Rather than a lump sum, beneficiaries of a trust are typically provided regular distributions. Additionally, an individual is able to set certain conditions that may affect the amount or frequency of those distributions. Trusts also have tax benefits and assets held in a trust are protected from lawsuits and creditors.

Some individuals wrongly assume their estate plan is complete once they have a will, living will and trust. However, estate planning documents should be reviewed on a regular basis to account for changes within a family as well as changes to estate planning laws. In cases where an individual experiences a birth, death, marriage, lawsuit or divorce in their family; steps should immediately be taken to update and revise key estate planning documents.

Once the terms of an estate plan have been established, it's important to relay one's plans and wishes to family members. In some cases the death of a loved one is followed by fighting and hard feelings between family members. However, disputes amongst family members related to a loved one's estate may be avoided if relatives are provided information and the opportunity to ask questions prior to a loved one's death.

As with many important legal matters, laws pertaining to estate planning are complex and change frequently. An estate planning attorney can answer questions, provide advice and ultimately ensure an individual is able to successfully meet their estate planning goals.

Source: CNN, "10 steps to painless estate planning," Martha While, March 3, 2014

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