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A will is just the beginning of a good estate plan

This article speaks about estate planning and the suggested steps to take for writing a comprehensive plan.

There is much more to estate planning than the writing of a will, although that is of primary importance. Those who give time to writing an all-encompassing estate plan are primarily thinking about their loved ones should something happen to them. In essence, it's the last gift a person can give to those who will survive him or her.

Simply thinking about an estate plan isn't good enough. Putting pen to paper and writing down important points is probably the first order of business when forming an outline of what to include in a plan. Speaking with people who may be able to help -- such an accountant or financial adviser and a lawyer -- may make the process a little less frustrating from the get-go.

Answering some important questions

It might be prudent for those wishing to plan their estates to ask what their primary goals are for doing so. The answers to why an estate plan is important may be as unique as those writing them. Perhaps some wish to manage their wealth, while for others it means leaving money for their children and grandchildren's educations. No matter what the reasons, talking to family members about the plan may be a wise course of action, even though it will involve a discussion about the end of life.

There are some points to ponder when beginning the estate planning journey. They might include:

· Making an all-encompassing list of assets and debts

· Making sure a will exists

· Reviewing familial needs

· Ensuring beneficiaries are in place

These are just some of the issues that require attention when creating an estate plan. Others are discussed below.

Thinking about representatives

Part of a complete estate plan includes naming representatives to oversee various parts of the estate. They could include executors, trustees, guardians for minor children and lawyers. Taking care to make sure these individuals are trustworthy is of concern since they will have the task of overseeing certain financial aspects of the estate. It is a job that will take some time, so discussing it with the person before naming him or her in a formal document is both wise and thoughtful.

Trusts may be part of the picture

Many individuals use trusts in an estate plan to provide a steady flow of income for family members, both immediately after death and into the future. A testamentary trust is set up after a person dies, while an inter vivos trust is set up while the writer is still living.

Designating certain assets

A parent may opt to register some assets, like a home, in his or her name and the name of an adult child as joint owners. Doing this may sidestep or minimize the costs and time associated with probate. However, if there are other children, it may cause unwanted and unintended tension. Initiating such a move may be counterproductive when it comes to tax issues as well.

When it comes to assets, each one may warrant individual attention so as not to cause dissention among family members or incur substantial tax liability.

Where to find help

Estate planning is no easy feat, but a necessary one, especially for the benefit of surviving family members. Getting the advice of legal counsel may make the task a little less daunting. A British Columbia lawyer may also be able to provide guidance when it comes to the legalities of fashioning an estate plan -- such as how various legislation like British Columbia's Representation Agreement or the Wills, Estates and Succession Act -- could affect the writing of an estate plan.