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Estate planning 101
Our firm recently had the privilege of sponsoring an estate planning seminar at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. The seminar consisted of a panel of three leading Grand Rapids estate planning attorneys discussing key components of estate planning and illustrating its importance with case studies.
Overall, it was a very well attended and extremely informative event. I trust those who attended left with lots of valuable information. For those of you who could not attend, here is a quick synopsis of estate planning and why it should matter to you.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the process of deciding how you want to have your assets transferred after you die. You formally choose who receives your assets, what assets they should receive and when they are to receive them. This is all done within the framework of the law with the intent of minimizing taxes, legal fees and administrative expenses.
Benefits of an established estate plan
An estate plan can:
- Control the transfer of your assets to your loved ones after death. With proper planning, your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, not according to state law.
- Identify a loved one to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Keep your identity private by avoiding probate court. Without good planning, your assets will be distributed in probate court, which is expensive, time consuming and a matter of public record.
- Ease the stress on your family. Funeral preparation and arrangements can be addressed in an estate plan.
- Enhance your legacy through charitable giving. Estate plans can include designated payments to help and support charitable causes that are important to you.
- Reduce estate taxes. A well written estate plan can minimize unnecessary estate or inheritance taxes and allow more of your wealth to be transferred to beneficiaries.
- Provide for loved ones other than your children. Perhaps you have an elderly parent or a special-needs friend. You can establish trusts for anyone you choose.
- Ensure your business continues after your death. Your business succession can be addressed in your estate plan, ensuring that it continues to thrive in your absence.
With all of these benefits, there is no reason to wait. Start planning now — it is the most considerate act that you can give to your loved ones.