1. Provide for your immediate family
You can provide for your surviving spouse through life insurance, particularly for spouses who don’t work outside the home. You can pass your property on to your spouse and other members of your family, make sure you’ve selected a competent person to settle the estate and protect your property while the estate is being settled, and even take steps to protect your property from creditors. Without estate planning, your beneficiaries will get less and they’ll get it later.
If you and your spouse should die before your children grow up, your will can assure your children’s education and upbringing by nominating personal guardians for them. Otherwise, a court will appoint a guardian of the person and estate of your minor children without your input. The guardian of the person will decide where your children live, are educated, and worship. The court-appointed guardian of the children’s estate (or property) will be required to account to the court for the administration of the child’s estate, and this accounting can be costly and could prevent your children from enjoying the style of living you prefer for them.
2. Provide for other relatives who need help and guidance
Do you have family members whose lives might become more difficult without you, such as an elderly parent or disabled child, or a grandchild whose education you want to assure? You can establish a special trust fund for family members who need support that you won’t be there to provide.
3. Get your property to beneficiaries quickly
You want your beneficiaries to receive promptly the property you’ve left them. Probate may not be a problem in your jurisdiction. If it is, you can avoid or simplify probate through insurance, joint tenancy, a living trust or other means; and using simplified or expedited probate.
4. Ease the strain on your family
Ease the burden on your grieving survivors by planning your funeral arrangements when planning your estate. You can also limit the expense of your burial or designate its place, and provide for your body to be cremated or given to medical science after you die.
5. Minimize expenses
Good estate planning keeps the cost of transferring property to beneficiaries as low as possible.Choosing competent executors/trustees and giving them the necessary authority will save money, reduce the burden on your survivors, and simplify administration of your estate. It also will reduce a court’s involvement and, in many states, avoid paying for a bond.
6. Reduce taxes on your estate
Every dollar your estate has to pay in estate or inheritance taxes is a dollar that your beneficiaries won’t get. A good estate plan can give the maximum allowed by law to your beneficiaries and the minimum to the government.
7. Make your retirement years easier
Even though estate planning primarily benefits those you love and care about, you can also coordinate your estate plan with retirement, health care and other benefits to help you achieve the most comfortable final years while still providing for your loved ones.
8. Plan for incapacity
Health-care advance directives. living wills and durable health-care powers of attorney enable you to decide in advance about life support and pick someone to make decisions for you about medical treatment. Some states permit you to designate a personal guardian. Disability insurance can protect you and your family if you should become disabled and unable to work.
9. Help a favorite cause
Your estate plan can help support religious, educational, and other charitable causes, either during your lifetime or upon your death, and at the same time take advantage of tax laws designed to encourage private philanthropy.
10. Make sure your business goes on smoothly
If you have a small business, you can provide for an orderly succession and continuation of its affairs by spelling out what will happen to your interest in the business.