The term "estate" is the legal term given to all of your assets once you have passed away. The term "assets" means the property you own and control such as real estate, stocks, bonds, cash, etc. Assets can be tangible or intangible. Intangible assets include such items as powers of appointment. Simply put,estate planning is the creation of a plan or an arrangement which governs your assets during your lifetime and allows the orderly disposition of your estate after your death without the cost, delay, and burden often associated with expensive and lengthy probate proceedings.
Initially, your estate plan does not have to be elaborate. It can be no more than thoughts and ideas that you have written down regarding where your assets are today and where you want them to go after your death. Unfortunately, ideas alone will not enable you to carry out your estate plan. Legal documents such as a Will or a Trust are needed to carry out the goals of your estate plan. With little or no inconvenience, a properly executed estate plan can offer many advantages, including the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have prepared for the secure future of your loved ones.
A well-crafted estate plan should provide for your loved ones in an effective and efficient manner by avoiding guardianship during your lifetime, probate at death, estate taxes and unnecessary delays. You should consult an experienced estate planning attorney to review your family and financial situation, your goals and explain the various options available to you. Once your estate plan is in place, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have provided for yourself and your family.
An understanding of certain terms and various legal instruments is vital to accomplishing basic estate planning goals. Below are some of the most common estate planning instruments and terms: