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One common misconception about estate planning is that it is an area of law that applies only to individuals and families with millions in assets. The truth, however, is that just about everyone can benefit from careful estate planning carried out by an experienced attorney. Here is a look at why estate planning should be a priority for you and your family, even if you do not consider yourself of considerable means.

Ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Simply put, wills and trusts help ensure that your wishes concerning your assets are carried out upon your death. This means that whether you have $20,000 or $20 million, preparing a will in conjunction with a trust is essential. In fact, doing so is perhaps even more essential to those with smaller estates, as every asset is even more crucial to your family members.

Ease the probate process.

Proper estate planning also helps ease the probate process, which can be complex even for those with few assets. A will can give instructions to the probate court on how to distribute property and assets to your family. (Note that “assets” includes things such as home equity, business ownership, life insurance, and retirement accounts.) A revocable living trust, meanwhile, allows for increased flexibility, as you can designate a family member who will take control of your assets upon your death. With a revocable living trust, you can often avoid the probate process altogether.

Create a plan for minor children.

Estate planning is especially important if you have minor children. Careful estate planning can help ensure that minor children are cared for in case of your death or incapacity. You can specify a guardian for your children in a will, and you can use a will in combination with a trust to designate what property and assets your children will receive.

Designate someone who will act on your behalf.

It is important to have a plan in place in case you should become incapacitated during your lifetime. A will can designate a guardian for minor children, and a trust can designate a trustee who will take control of your assets; but these are not the only things you need to worry about. Ancillary documents, such as durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and a living will, allow you to designate individuals who will make specific financial, legal, and medical decisions on your behalf.

Visit the Estate Planning page to get a broader view at what comprehensive estate planning entails and to learn about how Elliot P. Smith can help you develop a comprehensive estate plan.