Estate planning can seem like an intimidating undertaking. Many people think that they only need a will to address their estate planning needs, but a variety of options exist to help you distribute your wealth. Estate valuation experts often encounter clients who are unaware of the power of certain provisional documents in creating a complete estate plan.

It is sometimes difficult to know how you can meet the real needs of your heirs. Rather than simply relying on a will, which is only applicable after you die, consider drafting trusts that can help you distribute your assets in a more customized fashion. Trusts can include important provisions that restrict the amount of money that is given out at certain ages, for example. In addition, you need to think about the distinction of “fair versus equal” when you are distributing your assets. Consider whether some of your heirs might be underemployed, disabled or have larger families.

Trust documents can be part of a larger plan to fairly distribute your holdings. You need to make sure, though, that your estate documents all interact correctly. Double-check your beneficiaries that are listed on your retirement accounts, for example, to make sure that they correspond with the information in your will. Your estate could end up in probate court if conflicting information makes your estate documents difficult to interpret.

Furthermore, your estate planner will want you to ask about the tax implications of your current estate setup. You might need more life insurance to make sure that your taxes do not unduly affect the value of your assets. Your financial adviser and estate planning attorney can help you devise the best plan for your holdings.

All of these strategies show that you are a responsible relative because you consider the needs of your family members. A good estate plan guarantees that your assets will be smoothly transferred to your heirs without the involvement of probate courts.

Luis E. Barreto