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Estate planning: Be timely, account for all possibilities

Do it now, in timely fashion.

And do it right.

That is the advice strongly given by a financial columnist in a recent article denoting the scope and magnitude of things that can go awry when individuals and families do not implement a well-considered and comprehensive estate plan to provide for future contingencies.

As Sheyna Steiner notes, a candid and dispassionate discussion that focuses upon death, dying, property, savings accounts and other financial matters "is not something that comes naturally to most families."

Not having it, though, and especially not having it availed of the close input and knowledge of an attorney with a wealth of experience in what Steiner calls "the dense and specialized field of estate planning," can bring about highly untoward and unanticipated results. Many of those can be flatly contrary to what family members ever wished to happen.

Steiner provides several examples of dire results that can come from either a complete failure to plan or from families trying to wade through estate planning matters and considerations on a do-it-ourselves basis.

What happens, for example, if all of a decedent's savings accounts are set to automatically transfer on death to stated inheritors (e.g., bank accounts and insurance policies)? What if that leaves nothing remaining to satisfy estate obligations? Creditors might end up going after inheritors or heirs to satisfy outstanding debts.

Real-life horror stories abound concerning document defects enabling the passing of money or other assets to go to a person who was never intended to receive them. That can easily -- and often does -- happen in the case of do-it-yourself wills (which Steiner says often "lack perspective and foresight"), where parties fail to see the utility of or wrongly establish a certain type of trust or flatly fail to consider tax-related matters and other future possibilities.

It is precisely because the future can be complex and murky, says Steiner, that true estate planning professionals should be enlisted "to map out a plan that accounts for nearly every possibility."

Source: Fox Business, "Duck estate-planning fiascos before it's too late," Sheyna Steiner, May 13, 2013

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