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Estate Planning Basics

Your place for estate planning resources, estate planning information and answers to common questions. Learn about basic estate planning and disability planning, from wills and trusts, to powers of attorney, to living wills and medical directives. Find out if you need an estate plan. Learn about practical and common sense estate planning.
  1. Do You Need an Estate Plan? (8)
  2. Estate Planning FAQs (60)
  3. Plan, Maintain, Update (20)
  4. Planning for Minors (9)
  5. Step by Step Planning (12)

Getting Started on Your Estate Plan
Not sure where to begin on your estate plan? Then start by learning the basics, from what happens without an estate plan, to why you need an estate plan, to understanding the probate process, to working with an estate planning attorney, to how to organize and update your estate plan, to how to handle a deceased person's bills.

What is Estate Planning?
What is estate planning? In simple terms estate planning involves both planning for the possibility of mental disability and planning for certain death.

What Happens if You Don't Have a Disability Plan?
Planning for mental disability should be an integral part of every estate plan, and yet it's often overlooked. There are two important aspects of this type of planning: deciding who will take care of your personal well being and deciding who will take care of your finances.

What Happens Without a Will?
If you fail to make a Last Will and Testament before you die, then your estate will be divided up based on the intestacy laws of your state as well as the intestacy laws of any other state where you own real estate. And what about your minor children? A judge will decide who they will live with and who will control their inheritance. And yet it's easy to avoid all of this, learn how.

What Happens if You Don't Have an Estate Plan?
What will happen to your property if you don't make an estate plan before you die? What does it mean to have died intestate? How does a Revocable Living Trust fit into an estate plan? Learn this and more.

Step by Step Guide to the Estate Planning Process
Estate planning should be approached in the same manner that you would approach any other important decision in your life. Learn the steps that should be followed to establish and maintain a practical and common sense estate plan.

Top 5 Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
When it comes to basic estate planning, time and time again I run into these five common mistakes. Learn what they are and how to avoid them when making or updating your estate plan.

The Best Estate Planning Advice Ever
OK, here it is, the best estate planning advice I can give, and all that you really need to know to protect you and your loved ones.

The Best Gift Tax Advice Ever
OK, here it is, the best gift tax advice I can give, and all that you really need to know to protect you and your loved ones.

An Overview of the Essential Estate Planning Documents
Estate planning is about legally organizing your affairs to deal with the possibility of mental incapacity and certain death. Depending on your current family and financial situations, your estate plan will include four or five essential legal documents.

10 Steps to a Creating an Estate Plan
Estate planning is a process that consists of ten distinct steps. Learn what these steps are so that you, along with help from your estate planning attorney, can create a solid estate plan.

Can You Disinherit Your Spouse?
With modern estate planning comes unique estate planning challenges because today's families are different - from same sex and unwed couples raising children, to estranged parents who stay married to raise their children, to married couples who live completely separate lives but nonetheless remain legally married. The latter two groups beg the...

Can You Disinherit Your Children?
While in all 50 states and the District of Columbia there are community property and elective share laws in place to protect the rights of a surviving spouse who has been intentionally cut out of their spouse's Last Will and Testament, in all but one state you are completely free to disinherit your children.

What Happens at the Reading of a Will?
After someone dies, when is their will read out loud to the heirs? Find this out and much more.

What Documents Are Needed After Someone Dies?
After someone dies, the surviving family members will need to gather up all of the decedent's important papers. This will give the family members and/or attorney who will be assisting with settling the decedent's final affairs all of the pertinent information needed to complete the settlement process. Here's the list of documents that will be...

Who is Responsible for Paying a Deceased Person's Bills?
If your loved one has died and the medical and credit card bills have started piling up, then you'll need to understand who will be responsible for paying all of these bills and in what amounts. Learn who will have to pay and how much.

Review of Smart Women Protect Their Assets
Wynne A. Whitman offers up some common sense advice about the complex world of estate planning in her new book Smart Women Protect Their Assets - Essential Information for Every Woman About Wills, Trusts, and More. Read my full review.

Your Loved One Has Died and Owes Credit Card and Other Debt - Now What?
If your loved one has died and owes credit card and other debt, then there are steps that you will need to take in order to prevent harassment by your loved one's creditors and legal trouble from happening in the future.

Wills and Estate Planning - Estate Planning Do's
Throughout my years working as an estate planning attorney, I've compiled a checklist of common sense tips and tricks that everyone can benefit from when it comes to planning their estate. Here you will find a list of things that everyone should do when it comes to their estate plan.

Wills and Estate Planning - Estate Planning Don'ts
Throughout my years working as an estate planning attorney, I've compiled a checklist of common sense tips and tricks that everyone can benefit from when it comes to planning their estate. Here you will find a list of things that everyone shouldn't do when it comes to their estate plan.

What Are the Top 6 Estate Planning Myths?
Throughout my years of practice as an estate planning attorney, I've run across many misconceptions about wills, trusts, probate and estate taxes. Read on to find out what I consider to be the top six estate planning myths.

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