Estate planning is the process of arranging ownership and use of assets to help meet lifetime financial objectives in a tax efficient manner, and simultaneously help provide for survivors’ needs and the disposition of property at death.
A carefully implemented estate plan can help to:
- Create and conserve assets during life.
- Minimize death taxes and estate settlement costs.
- Assure that cash is available to pay unavoidable taxes and costs.
- Provide an orderly distribution of assets that meets the estate owner’s objectives and intentions.
- Provide peace of mind and family harmony.
A will is a written declaration by an individual (testator) of his or her intentions for the disposition of assets after death. If the will was prepared and executed in accordance with legally required formalities, and if the testator was competent and not under duress, the probate court will generally order that the testator’s plan be carried out by the Executor (also called a personal representative).
A will usually does not exclusively direct the disposition of all of a person’s property. The most common examples of property that do not pass by will are jointly held property and life insurance payable to a named beneficiary. While a will is an essential part of almost any estate plan, it should be viewed as only one part of the total picture.
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