Everyone has an estate plan, whether intentional or by default. If you think you have no plan, because you have not made out a will or a trust, you still have a plan--it is simply one that is dictated by the laws of the state where you reside at your death. People who die without wills or trusts are said to die intestate. State law provides the rules of distribution that must be followed when a person dies intestate. In most cases intestate estates must be probated, which involves a court proceeding, and in many cases state law may require a distribution that you would not want. It may be a very good idea to avoid intestacy by having a will or a "living trust" that is designed for your particular needs. In many cases a revocable "living" trust is better than a will.
What is proper estate planning? It involves a plan that is carefully designed to meet your goals. It requires a cooperative effort between you, your attorney, and other appropriate members of your estate planning "team," such as the Estate Planning Attorney, your financial adviser, and a CPA.
Proper planning involves anticipating and reducing the estate tax liability wherever possible as well as providing for payment of the tax. However, Estate Planning is also about people and their desire to provide for their loved ones. Estate creation, income replacement, and the orderly transfer of property from one generation to the next continue to be the primary objectives of most estate plans. You may need to provide care for minor children, support for disabled children and elderly parents, and the protection of loved ones from creditors. Most importantly, are there enough life insurance proceeds, liquid assets and other sources of income to help maintain the current living standards of your surviving family?