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More than a will may be required for thorough estate planning

Although estate planning is designed to effectuate the intentions of the grantor, sometimes it may take a helpful nudge from friends, children or other loved ones to start the discussion.

In fact, a recent article indicates that around 70 percent of Americans may be unsure of just how much money they will have in retirement, let alone knowing the exact value of the estate that may pass to their heirs and beneficiaries. That figure may be surprising, considering that three-quarters of the surveyed individuals agreed that conversations about estate planning are important. The discrepancy appears to be a matter of timing.

Specifically, many Americans seem to prefer waiting until after their retirement to finalize wills, trusts and other documents involved in estate planning. Those with a will may feel doubly justified in putting off further discussions.

Yet an attorney who focuses on estate planning would caution that a will may be insufficient. For starters, a will may avoid the laws of intestacy, but not necessarily probate. In fact, many states still require a will to go through probate to ensure matters of validity and proper identification of named heirs and beneficiaries.

For those worried about keeping control of their finances, property and other assets, a revocable trust offers a solution. The grantor of a revocable trust who serves as its trustee maintains control over the trust property. That means that the property could be encumbered, withdrawn, distributed or directed in practically any way that the trustee deems fit during his or her lifetime. Yet since a revocable trust also names a beneficiary after the grantor’s death, it can usually bypass probate. In conjunction with a will, a trust can add completeness to an individual’s estate planning.

Source: New York Daily News, “Money Pros: How to start the money talk with your aging parents,” John Sweeney, July 7, 2014  

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