Your estate is comprised of everything you own—your car, home, real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture and personal possessions. An estate plan is making a plan in advance and naming who you want to receive the things you own, what you want them to receive and when you want them to receive it, after you die. And making this happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

Good estate planning should also include:

  • Include instructions for passing your values (religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
  • Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
  • Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
  • Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting benefits.
  • Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
  • Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
  • Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
  • Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
  • Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.

If you do not have a will or a trust when you die, the State will decide who gets your assets. You have no control who, how or when your assets are distributed. Probate is costly and may take a long time for any of your heirs to receive an inheritance.


Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid, identifies, inventories and appraises the person’s assets, pays debts and taxes and distributes the remaining property as the will directs.

Probate involves paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. The lawyers and court fees are paid from estate property, which would otherwise go to the people who inherit the deceased person’s property.

It depends. Everyone’s estate and situation is unique, so each estate plan will be unique. For a basic guideline, please see our Flat Rate Planning Guide in the client area.

You may not realize your legal relationship with your child changes the day they turn 18. Even if you still plan on paying for their medical bills, insurance or helping them financially through college, you’re no longer considered their legal representative. When you go to the doctor or bank unless your child has granted you Durable Power of Attorney you have no say in the care they receive or their financial accounts. Similarly, your child’s relationship with their college is also private.To find out measures that can be put in place to legally help your new adult, contact our office.

Click here for a free legal guide about the ways your 18-year-olds’ relationship with the law changes.