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Estate planning and you - do you know the key parts of a will?

Almost all of our Michigan readers probably have a varying amount of assets, and most also have relatives. These two aspects of life may not mix well after a person dies, which is why estate planning is so crucial. Yes, it can be somewhat morbid to sit down and plan out what you would like to see happen to personal property after death, but doing so will spare family members and others the trouble of sorting through all of the legal issues that can come with a will contest or other probate litigation. But what exactly are the key aspects of a will? A recent article tackled that very subject, and it pointed out areas that some of our readers may not have considered before.

First, a will becomes effective upon the planner's death. This is obvious to most people, but there are so many other ways in which a person can protect their assets and pass them on with minimal tax implications that it can be helpful to remind people that a will is often the simplest, but best, start in an estate plan. And most times having even a simple will is better than dying "intestate" - without a will.

Next, a will goes through the probate process upon going into effect. Certain types of assets will be part of this process, but others won't - such as life insurances policies, which are considered "non-probate" and will be paid to the designated beneficiary directly.

Lastly, what are some of the motivations for drafting a will? For many people, being able to designate property distribution is the main motivation. This will ensure that specific assets go to each particular person, be it a relative or friend, that the planner choses. For others, being able to designate guardians to care for minor children in the event of an untimely death is the most crucial aspect of a will. This will ensure that a planner's children are cared for by the individuals they chose - otherwise the decision will most likely end up in a judge's hands.

There are many reasons for our Michigan readers to consider drafting a comprehensive estate plan. But knowing the key ingredients, especially when starting with the drafting of a will, can help people to see the benefits.

Source: Fox 2 now, "Making Sense Of Wills & Trusts," Elliot Weiler, May 1, 2013

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