Estate Planning Throughout Your Life

Which of these people is not like the others?

A. Firefighters
B. Policemen
C. Estate planners
D. Big-game hunters

If you're like most people, you probably said "C." Compared with the danger and physical challenges that the other three professionals face every day, talking with people and sitting behind a desk is a cakewalk.

Yet if you think about it, you might interpret that as a trick question, because people in all four of these groups do have something in common: They look death in the eye every day as part of their profession.

People often find it easy to procrastinate when creating an estate plan. For young adults in or just out of school, with more debt than assets, it often seems silly to think about something that they hopefully won't need for decades. Even after people have earned money for several years and have dug their way out of debt, it's still often hard to take the time to think about events that seem so remote.

But as people age and their resources and responsibilities expand, the importance of a good estate plan finally begins to come to the forefront. People in relationships face the challenge of protecting their loved ones from the financial consequences of an unforeseen tragedy. Those with children or other dependents must figure out how to make sure that appropriate care will be available if they cannot provide it directly. Many wish to help grandchildren or other relatives with specific expenses, such as education. Others may have favorite charities that they support and to which they wish to make further gifts in the future.

There's no doubt: As the amount of complexity in one's life increases, it becomes easier to see the need to have an estate plan in place. By itself, however, that doesn't give everyone the courage to look death in the eye and do the legwork necessary to put together an appropriate estate plan.

This series of articles will address common estate-planning needs for the situations that typical people face during various stages of their lives. Although the topic is vast and complicated, with lots of traps for the unwary, these articles will give you the basic information you need to ask informed questions and to get appropriate assistance along the way.

To read all of the articles in the series, click below:

Robert Brokamp of ourRule Your Retirementservice had an estate plan before graduating from junior high school. If you need help planning your retirement, take Rule Your Retirement for afree trial run today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger welcomes your comments.

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