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What Can DCU Save You?

Overview of Estate Planning

StreetWise Consumer Education Program

Retirement
  • Summary
  • Article

Estate Planning Overview

  • What is your estate?
  • What estate planning allows you to do
  • The results of estate planning
  • Estate planning is continual

What is Your Estate?

Estate planning isn't just for the wealthy. Depending on your age, family situation, and assets, your need for estate planning may be simple or complex.

Your estate consists of all the property — real and personal — that you own at the time of your death. The property may include real estate, bank accounts, stock and other securities, life insurance policies, personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, artwork, and other collections.

What Estate Planning Allows You To Do

Estate planning allows you to:

  • Identify who should receive your property after your death.
  • Ensure that your property will be transferred to the identified persons quickly and with as few legal steps as possible.
  • Define the kinds of medical care you wish to receive.

    This is important since you may not be unable to decide for yourself.

  • The funeral arrangements you desire and how related expenses should be paid.

The Result of Estate Planning

The result of estate planning should be some combination of these documents:

  • Will
  • Trust
  • Health care directives
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Description of final arrangements.

At a minimum you should have a will and healthcare directives. These and other estate planning options are described in the following sections.

Estate Planning is Continual

Estate planning is not a task that you do once then forget it. You should review your plan every three to five years to make sure that it reflects your current situation. Here are several reasons to update your plan:

  • You marry, divorce, or remarry
  • You have a child
  • You have a grandchild
  • You move to another state
  • The value of your assets change significantly
  • The executor of your will or the administrator of your trust dies or becomes incapacitated, or your relationship with that person changes significantly.
  • One of your heirs dies or has a permanent change in health.
  • You decide to change your beneficiaries.
  • The laws affecting your estate change.