In the most general sense, estate planning is a process that ensures that the people and things important to you are treated in a manner you would approve of, both while you are living and after you are gone. Planning isn’t limited to financial assets, real estate, and personal possessions. It’s much broader than simply creating a set of instructions to give away what you own at your death, or trying to minimize taxes and expenses in the future.
It also includes such things as naming someone to look after you if you become incapacitated, to look after your minor children if you’re gone, and to protect adult children from lawsuits and divorces after they receive their inheritance. It’s about planning for the future of a family business, or contributing to charitable and community causes. It might provide your children and grandchildren with a source of funding for their college education, or provide for the proper management and investment of assets for those in the family with special needs. For some, it includes an element of “legacy planning” incorporating your family values, beliefs, traditions, and stories.
In these ways and many others, estate planning is much more than simply planning for death and taxes. It’s about sharing love and creating opportunities for you and the ones you care most about. Legal documents such as wills, revocable living trusts, and powers of attorney can be supplemented with journals, diaries, instructions, or recordings, which provide guidance and wisdom to those left behind.
Anthony J. Madonia, Esq., CPA