Changing face of estate planning

The way assets are passed down has changed in recent decades due in part to the changing nature of the family. Families are smaller today than they were forty or fifty years ago and many women are choosing not to have children.

A number of individuals are leaving greater portions of their estate to charitable organizations. However, care does need to be taken when thinking of leaving money to these organizations. It could mean paying close attention to a hand full or organizations for a number of years, developing a relationship with these entities and learning to understand how these operate.

One possible reason why organizations choose not to give everything to their children is because of concerns of infighting that may result. There may be other personal concerns as well.

As in everything else, this requires planning. Even creation of a will requires the appointing of an executor that understands the importance of taking on such a relationship. Surprisingly many individuals do not have a will in place. One study found that only three-quarters of individuals over the age of 75 had a will in place.

Also, any documents created concerning the distribution of one's assets must function as a whole. We do not want to have one particular document defeat the purpose of another when creating an estate plan. It's therefore important to allow someone who thoroughly understands the laws of your state to put together a comprehensive plan. The better the understanding the less chance that mistakes will be made.

Source: The New York Times, "In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First," Caitlin Kelly, May 2, 2014

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