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Quality estate planning considers home equity, payment obligations

Effectively managing money and assets in a family is a highly singular and personal endeavor. Quite simply, families differ in what they have, how they have planned over the years and how they optimally envision their assets being marshaled, preserved and allocated.

Other factors, too, play into estate planning considerations, such as the potential sense it makes to establish trusts, deal with retirement funds, manage Social Security benefits, and deal with a variety of health-related issues.

In short, there can be multiple and highly interrelated considerations that cumulatively affect asset management, investment decisions and wealth transfer objectives.

One such factor centers on the family home, most specifically, whether it has been fully paid, as retirement nears or becomes reality for couples. It is not hard to see why that can be such an immediate and important concern after a career has come to a close. Having a continuing and sizable payment to make -- or not -- each month has a great financial impact in most cases.

An overwhelming majority of American couples owned their homes outright a generation ago, but government statistics indicate that things have changed greatly over recent decades. According to a Federal Reserve survey, more than 40 percent of households nationwide where the head was older than 65 were still making house payments in 2010.

That can have a material impact, obviously, on wealth and finances, making the need for sound financial planning even greater than it might have been years ago.

An experienced estate planning attorney can be an invaluable resource in helping individual and family members understand their options and make choices that fully promote their best interests. Comprehensive estate planning takes into account all the factors relevant to a family, including home equity.

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, "What paying off a mortgage (or not) means to retirement," Mara Lee, April 20, 2013

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