A good estate plan is all about your peace of mind, protection of your assets during and after your life, and smooth transfer of your assets to loved ones when you pass.

Your “estate” consists of assets you own such as real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, annuities, brokerage accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, notes, and personal property.

Different classes of assets have different rules that apply to them.

A big part of your planning will involve making sure the title on assets you own and the beneficiary and contingent beneficiary designations on file relative to retirement accounts you own, life insurance, and annuities are properly structured so as to make sure your planning goals will be met.

Fortunately, with a little bit of advice and counsel, you can obtain peace of mind knowing that when you have completed your planning:

  1. The court will not need to be involved if you become disabled;
  2. Loved ones will get what you want them to get when you pass;
  3. Court fees and legal fees will be substantially reduced because you will avoid unnecessary probate;
  4. Your assets will stay in your family because they will be left in trust with remainder to your blood descendants (if you wish); and
  5. Taxes will be avoided or deferred if unavoidable.

The legal instruments we use are wills, trusts, powers of attorney, deeds, beneficiary designations, and contracts. All of your estate-planning papers need to be coordinated so they all work together; so you know exactly who will get what and how under a variety of circumstances and contingencies.

You will need to know whom you trust to handle health decisions and financial decisions for you in the event you become mentally disabled and who will be responsible to carry out your directions when you pass. You should have a first and second choice.

Other than that, consider whom you wish to inherit in what percentages. If you wish to make sure the property a loved one inherits is protected from lawsuits and will stay in your family bloodline, then leaving it in trust for them is a good idea.

Most cases involve three in-person meetings: initial meeting, review meeting, and a meeting to sign papers.

In between the second and third meeting, we usually consult via telephone so we can address any questions or make any needed changes.

Having a good estate plan is all about your peace of mind. Fortunately, with a little bit of advice and counsel, it is not difficult to protect what’s yours.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate planning and elder law attorney. www.mwinnesq.com