While most people know that they should take steps to plan for what happens to their assets and belongings after they die, an alarming number of U.S. adults don't even have a will. In fact, according to an April 9, 2014 article in Forbes, 51 percent of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 don't have wills.
People may avoid drafting a will and the estate planning process in general for a variety of reasons. Fears related to their own mortality, simple procrastination and feeling overwhelmed are all reasons why people avoid starting an estate plan. Additionally, many people simply don't understand what estate planning really is and, consequently, the whole process can seem confusing and intimidating.
The following are some basic estate planning terms and related information that can be useful when first starting the process.
- Will - A last will and testament describe an individual's estate and includes information related to "who will receive specific property"
- Executor - An executor is the person that an individual who establishes a will selects to sort out his or her estate. Duties assumed by an executor include ensuring assets/property is properly dispersed, paying outstanding estate debts and taxes and handling probate court procedures
- Living Will - A document that contains provisions and directions related to medical treatments and interventions that an individual sanctions or forbids in the event that he or she is incapacitated
- Trust - A separate legal entity through which property and/or assets can be safeguarded and distributed to one or more beneficiaries
- Trustee - The person whom the individual who establishes a trust names to oversee and manage it
While aspects of estate planning are certainly complex, an attorney can answer questions and provide advice on the estate planning tools and strategies that can help you achieve both your short and long-term goals.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Estate Planning," Feb. 4, 2016