Estate Planning

Everyone needs to create some form of end-of-life financial plan, whether it's for yourself or a loved one like a parent. With these resources, learn how to talk about and plan a financial legacy.

Helping Your Parents Plan Their Financial Future

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How To Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is estate planning?

    Estate planning is the process of organizing and managing your assets in the event that you suddenly pass away. As part of the process, you determine who will make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or die suddenly. Estate plans may include legal documents such as wills, living wills, powers of attorney for health care and finances, trusts and letters of instructions. Unless you leave a plan, a court could decide the guardianship of your children (if you have them), and transfer of your assets.

  • How much does estate planning cost?

    Estate planning will cost different amounts depending on the individual. Generally, costs of probate and attorney fees vary from state to state, and according to personal circumstances. When it comes to hiring a lawyer to write a will specifically, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000.

  • What is the role of an executor in the estate planning process?

    An executor is appointed by law to oversee the execution of someone’s will after their passing. The role will vary, but it generally involves gathering assets, settling debt, and distributing belongings to heirs. Decedents typically name their executors in their wills, and the judge will almost always appoint these individuals unless beneficiaries object. For example, someone may designate a sibling to oversee their will in case they die—in that case, the sibling becomes the executor.

  • When should I start estate planning?

    Technically, there is no perfect age to start planning your estate. One key milestone, though, that typically sets the process in motion is when an individual or couple has a child. New parents will want to consider estate planning, in that if something were to happen to one or both of them, the child’s welfare will need to be taken into account. As your life and financial priorities become more complex with age, and your assets change, you will need to consistently review your estate plan to ensure it meets your needs.

  • Does a will always have to be probated?

    Probate is the court-supervised process of settling someone’s estate, including authenticating the person’s will, locating assets, paying creditors, and distributing assets according to the person’s wishes. If property is distributed through a will, or a person dies without a will, then it will be probated. In some cases, individuals will not have to go through probate. This happens when assets are jointly owned, have a designated beneficiary, or are held in a trust.

  • What happens if you die without a will?

    At its most basic level, a will provides instructions for how to divide property and assets to loved ones after an individual dies. If you die without leaving a will, assets will pass in accordance with state intestacy laws, which means a court and judge will then decide who receives your assets. This process is dependent on the state. In New York, for example, if you die without a will, a surviving spouse inherits the entire probate estate if there are no children or other descendants.

General Estate Planning Basics

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Why Is Estate Planning Important?

Key Terms

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