An Ounce Of Prevention - A Simple Estate Plan is Only Four Important Legal Documents Away

April 25, 2005

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When it comes to estate planning, the old adage is true. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Many people believe that they do not have enough money to need an estate plan; however, the need for an estate plan is not solely related to the amount of your wealth. Meeting with an estate planning and elder law attorney before a problem arises will enable you to avoid problems and added expense later. At the very least, every person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older should have a simple estate plan. Certainly, more complicated estate plans are needed for some individuals, but for the majority, the simple estate plan functions quite nicely. A basic estate plan is comprised of four legal documents. Below you will find a brief explanation of each document.

1. Last Will and Testament

Everyone needs a Will. Your Will directs the disposition of your probate estate. When you pass away, your probate estate consists of any property that is held in your name alone and that does not have a beneficiary designation.

A common misconception is that you do not need a Will if everything you own is held jointly or has a beneficiary designated. While jointly held assets normally do pass to a surviving joint owner, there must be a surviving joint owner for this plan to work. For example, if the person whose name is on your accounts happens to be with you in an automobile accident and you both pass away, there will be a need to probate your estate as there will be no surviving joint owner to take the account. If there is no Will, the property will pass as directed by the Commonwealth rather than as directed by you.

A Will is also necessary so that you can designate an executor, who is...

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by: Gina M. Barry, Esquire

BusinessWest
April 2005

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