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Estate planning is a key element of any successful financial strategy. It ensures you will leave a legacy that provides for your loved ones by properly protecting and distributing your wealth according to your wishes. Many have the mistaken notion that estate planning is only for rich people and their heirs, but this is far from true. Almost everyone has some kind of estate, because an estate is made up of everything that belongs to you. For example, any real estate you own, your bank and credit union accounts, your life insurance and annuities, your car, your investments, your home and its contents, and all other personal possessions. Whether your estate is modest or enormous, you too probably have some kind of estate that requires attention before you pass.

<strong>What is the purpose of an estate plan?</strong>

What is the purpose of an estate plan?

There are actually several purposes accomplished by financial estate planning, and all of them will make it much easier to manage and distribute your assets in the event that you become incapacitated or pass on. The basics of estate planning call for you to name each of those individuals or organizations you wish to inherit your assets upon your death, and then preparing a plan to make execution of your wishes as hassle-free as possible. It will generally also include instructions for how your assets should be managed in the event you become incapacitated prior to death.

If you're a business owner, your estate plan should include instructions for how your business should be transferred upon your death. If you have children who are not yet legal adults, provisions can be made for their care in your estate plan. Another important aspect of an estate plan is to take steps to minimize the taxes, legal fees, and court costs that may be associated with the complete disposal of your estate.

What is the difference between will and estate planning?

<strong>What is the difference between will and estate planning? </strong>

If it sounds like estate planning is a lot like making a will, it's true that the two are similar in their objectives, i.e. to distribute your assets after death. However, an estate plan can guarantee some things that a will simply cannot match. Estate planning ensures that your beneficiaries receive the maximum benefit, while also minimizing the amount of taxes paid and preventing creditors from seizing any portion of your estate. Your estate plan might also include some options not found in a will, for instance:

  • deliberate transfer of financial assets
  • beneficiary designations
  • power of attorney
  • property transfers
  • healthcare proxies
  • living and irrevocable trusts.

Wills simply cannot ensure that your beneficiaries will receive maximized benefits from your estate. Any number of different asset distribution strategies can be used in estate planning in order to thoroughly protect your beneficiaries, and to allow for the smooth transfer of assets. This is where an experienced estate planner can be extremely helpful, because he/she will know how to apply some of these legal strategies that result in protecting your heirs and guaranteeing that they receive the assets you intended for them.

Do I need an estate planner?

Yes! Whereas the legal aspect of an Estate plan is drawn up by an attorney, an estate planner can help you prepare and gather the necessary documents, make sure your finances and taxes are accounted for, and advise you on anything you can do to make the transition of your estate as smooth as possible.

Courtney Bonstrom is licensed to practice in New Jersey and has extensive training in advanced and highly personalized estate planning techniques that include living trusts, dynasty trusts for asset protection and legacy planning, irrevocable life insurance trusts, minor’s trusts, family limited partnerships, qualified retirement asset planning, business planning services, and planning for beneficiaries with special needs

Contact us today to make sure you have an estate plan in place.