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When is the right time to consider estate planning?

Many of our Michigan readers may often think, "I know I should consider my options for estate planning, but when is the right time?." There are definitely certain times in life when a person is more likely to think about getting their affairs in order. For instance, watching relatives going through probate litigation in a will contest could create a sense of urgency to do better yourself in order to avoid such a situation. For others, the birth of a child could provide a perfect reminder that one of the most important aspects of a will for someone with minor children is to name guardians in the unfortunate event of an untimely death. In the latter case, a recent article provided a few tips for those young adults who are getting started in life and considering an estate plan.

One of the most important points in the article is that sometimes even just having a basic will is better than dying "intestate" - without a will. Appointing guardians for minor children is never an easy thing to think about, and some people may be hesitant to talk about such a scenario with the people they chose. However, crafting an estate plan necessarily includes thinking about unfortunate, and hopefully unlikely, scenarios. Covering your bases is part of the process.

Another tip was to make sure that the named beneficiaries on accounts such as 401(k)'s and IRA's align with what is included in the will. Oftentimes young adults with minor children will want their assets to pass not to the named guardian, but to their minor children - to be held in trust by the guardians for the benefit of the children. Taking this approach to designate property distribution will most likely bring up the topic of trusts, which can be particularly useful in making sure certain assets are received by certain beneficiaries.

Every person's situation is different, and each estate plan is different. But one fact remains constant - having an estate plan is usually much more helpful to family members, loved ones and friends in a difficult, unexpected situation. Detailing your wishes will provide direction.

Source: HampshireReview.com, "For Parents-to-Be, a Few Financial and Legal Tips," March 11, 2013

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