Family fights, disgruntled heirs, costly legal fees, court costs and unnecessary taxes are some of the things a good estate plan will avoid for you.

Making sure you get peace of mind and that your assets will stay in your family and protected are things a good estate plan will do for you.

A good plan can and often should provide the possibility for loved ones to help you get government benefits (such as Medicaid) if needed. Neutralizing threats, avoiding hassles and getting peace of mind and protection is always is the goal.

Usually, a good estate plan will consist of a will, a trust, powers of attorney, and related documents such as beneficiary designations, deeds, agreements not to alter, and certificates of trust.

When you get this important work done, make sure that you have the opportunity to understand the legal concepts and how the papers work and how each and every asset will pass and why. This will give you peace of mind.

Assume, for instance, Bonnie and Clyde have one child together named Spencer, who is married to Tracy. They have a daughter, Betty.

Clyde has a child from a prior marriage whose name is Greta.

Bonnie wants everything to go to her spouse Clyde, but upon his death, she wants to make sure what is left will go to Spencer in such a way that the money is protected, will not be commingled and so Tracy will never get it.

Ultimately, Bonnie wants what is left to Clyde will go to Spencer, and from Spencer down to Betty, and not Greta. Can this be accomplished?

Yes. We can put Bonnie’s assets into her trust and direct that if Clyde survives, the assets go into a trust for his benefit during his life, with a remainder to Spencer, in trust, and ultimately down to Betty (when Spencer passes).

Usually, we say if and when Betty inherits, if she is under age 30, her share will be held in trust for her education and benefit until she attains age 30.

Let’s assume also that Bonnie has a substantial IRA, she is income tax savvy, and she wants some monies to go to Betty right away if she (Bonnie) passes before Clyde. If Bonnie had a substantial IRA, we would suggest she consider making a percentage of her IRA to go into a trust for Betty’s benefit (health, education, maintenance).

This would take advantage of substantial income tax deferral as the money could grow in a tax deferred environment. The required minimum distributions could be set over Betty’s life expectancy, which can equate to substantial value for Betty over time, as tax deferred growth is often the key to building wealth.

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