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The fundamentals of estate planning

Delaware residents might benefit from understanding more about some of the fundamental steps involved in sound estate planning. Developing an estate plan allows individuals to allocate how their assets will be distributed in the event of their death. For many people, this an effective way to ensure that surviving relatives, or beneficiaries, are entitled to receive their share of the decedent's estate. Without an estate plan, control over distributing the assets may be designated to a friend, relative or probate court.

Having an estate plan already in place could help make life easier for surviving relatives. Establishing the terms for administering the estate can help minimize any contentious disputes or stress that might arise as beneficiaries attempt to divide the inheritance among themselves. Having a comprehensive plan in place may also help estate owners minimize or eliminate the taxes often imposed on the assets transferred to the beneficiaries.

Drafting a will helps to name the beneficiaries and describe how the assets are to be distributed. The will can establish terms for managing all the funds in financial accounts as well as delegating legal rights or custody over children. People interested in estate planning might also consider creating a trust that is accessible once a child reaches adulthood. Before beneficiaries can collect the assets distributed by a will or trust, the agreement must be reviewed by the presiding probate court.

People who need more information about estate planning might benefit from contacting legal counsel. Lawyers may be able to help estate owners identify their primary priorities and evaluate which legal strategy would be most advantageous for achieving the desired result. Legal counsel may also be prepared to act as estate administrator or power of attorney as well as help prepare surviving relatives for some of the obligations bound to their inheritance.

Source: The Cheat Sheet, "A Beginner's Guide to Estate Planning," Brian Wu, March 3, 2015

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