Many people think that estate planning is only for the wealthy, but the truth is that anyone can benefit from advance planning about how to distribute their assets after their death. If you do not consider this important task prior to becoming elderly, ill or incapacitated, and you pass away without a plan, the state probate courts may take over and decide how to distribute what you leave behind.

Taking the time and doing proper estate planning before it is too late is an important part of planning for the future. Estate planning could help your family to avoid conflicts and ensure that you are able to distribute your assets as you see fit.

What does estate planning involve?

Estate planning is a more general term that refers to several different types of activities that aim to put your affairs in order during your life and for after your death. According to an article in the New York Times, only 36 percent of adults with minor children have a will. A will is one common component of estate planning, as it sets forth your wishes for how to distribute your assets after your death. Other possible components include trusts, powers of attorney and lifetime gifts.

Trusts can be a good solution if you want to protect your assets from probate, or if you would like to provide for a charitable cause after your death. They can also be useful in cases where you wish to provide for a disabled child or protect your assets from certain types of taxes.

Powers of attorney are important in the event that you become incapacitated or unable to express your wishes. Granting someone either financial or medical power of attorney can give you the peace of mind to know that someone else acts as your voice in the event you can no longer advocate for yourself.

These are just a few main examples, there are a wide range of documents and mechanisms estate plans can involve.

What are the advantages of estate planning?

One of the clearest advantages to estate planning is that it could help ensure you have the final say about how to distribute the wealth you have accumulated in your life. In what is inevitably a difficult and trying time for your loved ones, estate plan can help you feel confident that distribution of your assets takes place as you want it to. You may even find that proper estate planning could lead to significant tax advantages as well.

Estate planning is something you should speak to a qualified attorney about. A lawyer who works in this area can help you understand New York state laws and arrange your affairs according to your particular situation.