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Estate planning is more than avoiding taxes

With the recent presidential campaign, people in Oklahoma heard many promises about the repeal of the federal estate tax. Apparently, this is nothing new; politicians have been discussing its repeal for decades. However, these promises become dangerous when they cause people to postpone their estate planning until the tax is gone, taking the chance that their heirs will be left with the frustration of uncertainty.

Of course, the purpose of making a will is not limited to protecting one's assets from estate taxes. A will also allows someone to delegate people to take care of important tasks within the estate, such as an executor to account for and distribute the estate's assets. One can use a will to name the trustee or trustees responsible for managing any trusts. Finally, a will can provide a guardian for one's minor children. This may be an urgent matter if both parents happen to die in the same accident.

In addition to assigning people to manage aspects of an estate, a person can put the will to its most popular use: distributing assets. Specific items or sums of money bequeathed to certain people can be specified to reduce the chances of misunderstandings or disputes. Finally, even before a person dies, it is possible to provide peace of mind for loved ones by addressing the possibility of incapacitation and making arrangements for certain end-of-life details. A living will, health care proxy and power of attorney are all important estate planning documents.

Even if one cannot yet avoid the dreaded federal estate tax, he or she can protect loved ones from the expense and stress of a long, drawn-out probate. Having a will does not allow one's estate to bypass probate, but it can make the process more efficient and less expensive. If a person in Oklahoma is looking for a way to demonstrate consideration for one's family, estate planning sooner rather than later is a good way to start.

Source: forbes.com, "Five Reasons You Need A Will (Even If The Estate Tax Is Repealed)!", Rob Clarfeld, Dec. 8, 2016

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