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What is the best way to designate property distribution?

One of the primary goals of estate planning is to designate property distribution upon death. But, what is the best way to plan for this? When a person is trying to get more information about an estate plan, anyone helping them draft their will and all of the other appropriate documents will need just as much, if not more, information from the planner about their intentions, assets and relatives. Is there a good way to compile this information and then go through the tough choices involved in divvying up personal property? A recent article set out one option, called the "Four P's": People, Property, Plans and Planners.

The first P - People - refers to the process of thinking about who you know, whether it is relatives, friends or other potential beneficiaries, who you want to inherit what you leave behind. There are many reasons why one particular asset should go to one particular person - a business, for example, to be left in capable hands - but oftentimes going through the process of thinking about this part is difficult. Who will benefit from your estate? This is a crucial first step.

The article's second P - Property - refers to all of the assets which are yours to pass on. Compiling an exhaustive list of all real estate, bank accounts and all other valuables is essential when drafting an estate plan. Nothing should be left out.

The third and four P's - Plans and Planners - is where all of the information comes together. Plans refers to putting in place which Property goes to which People. This is decision-making time, and it can be emotional when the planner puts pen to paper. The fourth P - Planners - refers to the people who can get all of this information and put it together in legal form. Dotting all of the I's and crossing all of the T's will complete the process.

Source:, "Guest column: Using the 'Four Ps' of estate planning," Juan C. Ros, Feb. 16, 2013

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