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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Planning Life

It is sad to think about it, but in recent years we've lost several beloved family members. One had a simple will to disburse the remaining property and one has an irrevocable trust set up to take care of their assets. Our older family members are by no means wealthy, they were just plain, ordinary working folks. They would never have thought they were the type to be setting up trusts. They thought a will is enough.

One family member had a will wherein all things that were important to her like furnishings and the content of her home were itemized in the will and assigned to an heir. She had a couple of real properties which were to be divided equally among her heirs. While the items in the home have been disbursed without problem, the pieces of real estate are still tied up in probate and none of her heirs have seen any money or tangible asset from the real estate. That's because the heirs for one couldn't agree whether to sell the properties or not. Some were willing, others were not. As a result, the heirs have been paying property taxes for property that are sitting still because they can't agree on anything. To make matters worse, some of them are now not speaking to each other.

The second family member who died unexpectedly did have a trust in place, but the largest asset, a piece of real estate, was temporarily taken out of the trust to be refinanced and was not put back into the trust before her sudden death. The same situation happened among the heirs; after they dried their tears, they started tearing into each other. They couldn't get along and ended up not speaking to each other. This case went even as far as the parties taking each other to court. Not a pretty picture.

Seeing all these go on around us got us thinking seriously about our own situations. We are now at an age where are parents are dying and all of a sudden we've become quite aware of our own mortality. And when you have young children like we do, the situation becomes even more complex. While setting up an irrevocable trust seems to be the smart answer, it isn't as simple as pulling out a piece of paper, jotting down your wishes and signing it. You really need to get professional help if you are to do it right.

Attorneys specializing in estate planning like the Arizona firm of Morris, Hall & Kinghorn are what you need to walk you through the process of protecting your family. Even when you think that you are not rich enough to have enough assets to disburse much less list in a document, you will find out how wrong you are. We do have assets worth protecting no matter how little. For instance, if you own a house have a couple of vehicles,a small nest egg in the bank, and life insurance, do not depend on those you left behind or the authorities to dispose of these things as you would have wished. Always have things in writing and have someone reliable to manage it for you.

When you have minor children, your estate planning becomes even more vital. Who do you want to take care of your children in case anything happens to you? How do you plan to ensure that they are taken care of financially in your absence? I know many people who are in denial saying that it's too morbid to be planning for events after your demise. They look at it as if by being prepared for it you are somehow daring death to come early. I tell them to instead look at it as planning for your life not your death. You can live your life peacefully if you know you've done all you can to ensure the welfare of your loved ones.

Unless this is your area of specialty, you really can't do the process of protecting your estate alone. You will need to get assistance; you will need professional help, so start looking if you haven't partnered up with an estate planner yet.

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