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Estate Planning

As they say, you can't take it with you -- but unless you do some planning you may not be able to leave it behind, either. Estate planning simplifies things for survivors and can reduce the tax bite. Viatical settlements are one of several ways to cash in your assets before you die.

Many people find it uncomfortable to talk about money and estate planning, particularly if death is near. Letting go of one's possessions includes working through deep emotions with friends and loved ones, including dealing with grief and bereavement. Unresolved family issues may become very urgent, with old memories and regrets pushing to the forefront. Like other aspects of the death process, it's very common to avoid planning until it is too late to do it well. If the estate is large, or if family conflict threatens to divide the spoils, getting things in writing is a very good idea.

It's important to integrate financial planning into the overall process of getting one's affairs in order. Other practical matters include expressing preferences about health care at the end of life through advance medical directives and preferences for funeral and memorial arrangements.

Beware of getting suckered into expensive estate planning if your assets don't really justify it. Those "free" seminars on tax planning are primarily advertising scams to sell legal and financial services to people who may or may not need them. Before shelling out a lot of money for professional fees, take some time to learn the basic issues. The three most common approaches you will hear about are use of a living trust to avoid probate, use of a tax savings trust to reduce estate taxes, and buying life insurance to pay estate taxes that may be due. All of these methods are good for some people, but none of them are good for everybody. Do your homework using free resources on the net, and then obtain professional consultation after you are sure you need it. When used appropriately, attorneys and estate advisors can be of great help.

Many automatic aspects of estate law are based upon biological family relationships and marital ties. Unmarried couples and lesbian and gay families that are denied the right to marry may need to take special steps to ensure their wishes are respected.

By the way, please note that the information given by our web site is intended for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. We could be dead wrong about something important to your situation. Your best bet is to talk with a competent attorney or financial advisor licensed to practice in the state in which you live. We make no endorsement of any specific financial advisor or financial approach. Estate planning and viatical settlements are topics that can invite abuse, so watch your wallet when visiting sites or talking with advisors.