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Estate Planning: What is it and Why is it Important?

Estate planning is one of the most important things an individual can do for his or her family. Though it's not always clearly understood, most individuals do feel like they should do something to protect their families and assets in the future. Understanding what estate planning really is and why it matters makes it easier to take the steps necessary to secure your estate.

What is Estate Planning?

Simply put, estate planning is the process of preparing specific decisions about your property and your relationships for a day when you're no longer around to make those decisions on your own. When the vast majority of people think about estate planning, they tend to think about drafting a will — a document that details how your property will be disposed of and that might handle certain issues like guardianship or custody. In reality, estate planning covers a wide range of different documents and can deal with issues as varied as who gets custody of a pet or what will happen to a major business when its founder passes away.

Why it Matters

Drafting an estate plan is important because it's the only method through which you can exercise some control over your estate once you pass away. These documents actually carry legal weight, so you'll be able to make decisions about what happens to your property after you pass away. Perhaps more importantly, it allows you to provide some degree of care for those who are most important to you even after you are gone. Whether you're looking to ensure that your spouse is provided for or that your children are properly cared for, you'll do it through an estate plan.

Without one of these plans, your estate will be divided up as per the laws of your state. This means that your spouse and/or your heirs receive specific portions of your estate regardless of what you might have wanted when you were alive. Though this might be acceptable to some, those who have larger estates or who have more specific needs might not be quite so happy to let the state make the decisions for them.

How to Get Started

It actually doesn't take very much to get started with estate planning. In fact, the most important thing that you can do is to have a strong idea of how you want to dispose of your estate and what kind of guardianship and/or custody arrangements you'll need to make for any minor children. While sitting down to think about this is not always the most pleasant activity, it is vital for those who want to leave behind an orderly estate.

Once you are comfortable discussing a plan, it's time to visit an established attorney who specializes in estate planning. Estate Planning Attorneys in Daytona Beach will not only help you through the process of drafting a will or creating a trust, but he or she will also help you to understand the various options that you might have for your estate. A good attorney does much more than just filing paperwork — he or she is your most vital resource when planning for your estate's future. Any questions you have can be answered by a lawyer, and he or she can also ensure that the plans you make are recorded in a form that makes them more likely to be followed.

It's always wise to start estate planning sooner rather than later. The more time you have to establish a plan, the more options you can explore. With the right legal help, you can set up your estate to be as helpful as possible to those who you leave behind.