60-Second Guide to Estate Planning

Despite what you may think, estate planning isn't all about what happens after you die. Besides death, there are plenty of other unpleasantries -- accident, injury, or other malady that makes you unable to manage your own affairs for a while -- that can go much more smoothly for you and your loved ones if  you've prepared for them ahead of time.

Planning your estate doesn't have to be painful. Spend a minute to get your bearings and see how easy it can be to get your affairs in order.

0:60 Pick the people you want to get your stuff
The best-known way for you to say who gets your possessions when you die is to write a will. Contrary to popular belief, wills don't have to be complicated. Depending on whom you want to receive your assets, how much your estate is worth, where you live, and what types of things you own, a simple will may be adequate to get the job done.

0:47 Consider setting up a trust to simplify your passing
On the other hand, some folks will find that a simple will ends up leading to time-consuming, expensive legal processes such as probate (the court proceedings to make sure your estate is handled appropriately in the eyes of the law). Creating a trust may be the answer, since assets accounted for in this document can often get to your heirs much more quickly than those governed by a standard will. Setting up a trust is not something you should undertake lightly -- or without the right help. A good estate planning professional can help you figure out whether a trust is right for you.

0:35 Protect yourself during your lifetime
As we mentioned before, estate planning also includes preparing for any situation that leaves you unable to manage your own affairs. The right documents, such as durable powers of attorney and advance medical directives, can ensure that someone will fill your shoes if something happens to you.

0:21 Name the right beneficiaries
Not all of your assets are governed by your will. Things like retirement accounts and life insurance go to the people you name on beneficiary forms. Changing your will or creating a trust won't automatically change your beneficiaries on these accounts, so make sure you update information on all your accounts.

0:14 Save on taxes
Estate taxes hit relatively few families, but the ones who do have to pay typically get hit hard. A few mistakes can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars being taken away from your children and going to your least favorite relative -- Uncle Sam. Yet with simple strategies (we've got a few posted elsewhere in this area), you can take steps now to reduce or eliminate estate taxes and make sure your heirs get everything you've worked so hard to save.

0:05 Stay on top of it
After you have your planning done, things can change. A marriage, divorce, or new child or grandchild can shift your thinking on what you want to happen with your money. Get the help you need to make appropriate changes and make sure that your wishes never go out of style.

For more on getting your estate in order, read about:

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2014, at 1:08 AM, prginww wrote:

    This is very important when I say BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOU MONEY. With out a trust and power of attorney and advance medical directive your love ones will be fighting among themselves. I have seen it too many times with my own eyes. You can save for a life time, and it can all go away in a blink of an eye. You worked all your life and you should give it to the one that you love and care for that just doesn't mean family. It also means thing that are dear to your heart, like a caregiver or a friend or your favorite charity anybody, But not the State and Federal government they get enough . Protect yourself and your love ones. Make good choices. You don't have to be dead to give money away you can give up to fourteen thousand tax free to anybody a year, Max I think $1,000.000.00 per person in their lifetime. Your house should be in a trust or that goes to probate, don't let that happen, lawyers make money on that. You don't have to be rich to have a revocable trust set up.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2014, at 7:17 PM, prginww wrote:

    I want to get my estate in order before the twins are born. You never know what could happen! I haven't really thought of getting it done before, so it'll be fun to figure out!

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2014, at 10:42 PM, prginww wrote:

    I never thought that setting up your estate could be this fast. I hope that liquefying it all can be done just as fast. I think the last tip can be really helpful in this regard. Stay on top of it. <a href='' ></a>

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2015, at 9:01 AM, prginww wrote:

    I love how simple you make everything. Too often people get overwhelmed with the thought of estate planning but it cal all be done in a quick sixty seconds. In my opinion your last step is the most important one. Staying on top of everything have you've completed is so important. You wouldn't want to accidentally leave a child out because you never updated your will. <a href=' >

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2015, at 12:53 PM, prginww wrote:

    I really appreciate how simply you explain these basics about estate planning, especially because you start by clarifying that estate planning is not just for when you die. Many people probably don't think about making plans or provisions for their loved ones, but the moment one is responsible for someone else's well-being, estate planning should become a priority. I also have to add that the format of your article is genius: I actually looked at a clock to time how long it took to read each section and your timing was spot on. However, I did go back and read more carefully so as not to miss anything.

    Eli | <a href='' >Collins Toner & Rusen</a>

  • Report this Comment On May 21, 2015, at 3:43 PM, prginww wrote:

    I agree that preparing ahead of time is definitely the best way to go about this. The longer you wait, the more stressful it can become. The last section brings up a great point. If you have managed to get things planned, you will still need to update the plans every once in a while. We've been trying to help my grandpa get this stuff lined up for a while. Thanks for the article!

  • Report this Comment On May 28, 2015, at 2:57 PM, prginww wrote:

    I totally agree what a quick efficient break down. With the massive baby boomer generation aging it is imperative to make sure its done right. One of our relatives did not and it was a horrible experience. I also recommend using an estate sale company as well.

    <a href='' ></a>

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2016, at 9:35 PM, prginww wrote:

    Wow, I didn't realize that estate planning is something that you can do fairly quickly! My parents are getting fairly old and I think that this is something that they definitely need to look into in the near future. You never know when something might happen and it is always a good idea to have a backup plan. Thank you for sharing this outline!

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2016, at 11:45 PM, prginww wrote:

    Thanks you for the review

  • Report this Comment On July 28, 2016, at 12:43 PM, prginww wrote:

    Check out They have a free downloadable E-book on the estate planning subject.

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