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Phone: 201-345-3018

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Without an estate plan of your own, state uses one-size-fits-all plan

Our readers may not be aware of it, but everybody has an estate plan, whether they want it or not. Did you know that? That's right. If you choose not to work with an attorney to get your affairs in order, you still have an estate plan provided by the state. That plan is laid out in an "intestacy" statute, which decides how your property will be disposed if you don't make that decision yourself.

Needless to say, the state-provided plan can be woefully inadequate, depending on your circumstances and goals. Much better, of course, to come up with your own plan and to update it periodically. But what makes for a basic estate plan, and who can really benefit from estate planning?

First of all, everybody can benefit from estate planning, even those who don't have much property. Setting up an estate plan allows you to personalize how your assets will be distributed, select those who will be in charge of carrying the plan out, pick the people who will act as guardian for your children, specify your medical preferences for end-of-life issues, decide how to best carry out your charitable wishes, decide whether you want to set your estate up to bypass probate, achieve tax savings, and a number of other things besides.

In doing estate planning, it is important to work with an experienced attorney, but it can also be very helpful to work with other professionals, such as financial planners and accountants. The important thing is to get started on the process and return to your plan periodically for a review. Doing the latter will ensure that the plan is updated and will achieves the goals you have for your estate.

Source: Huffington Post, "Is Estate Planning Just For the Rich and Famous?," August 9, 2012

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