Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, Maryland

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The Need for an Estate Plan

By Roger Estep, Planned Giving Chair

Estate planning is deciding what will happen after your lifetime to your possessions and your heirs. Almost everyone needs an estate plan, even though many people think estate planning is only for the very rich but the more modest your estate, the more important it is to arrange for its careful handling and disposition. Plus, if you examine all of your assets, you'll probably find that your estate is bigger than you think.

Perhaps the most important reason for making an estate plan, however is that it gives you the peace of mind that you're doing all you can to benefit those you care about most.

In setting goals, first ask yourself whom you want to benefit. Your number one concern is most likely your family. They might have to face new and heavy burdens without you and estate planning helps you keep taxes and administration costs to a minimum so that your family receives your assets intact.

And there are other factors. What will happen to any business enterprise in which you have an interest? Are there charitable organizations you favor that could use help from your estate?

A good estate plan includes various instruments to ensure the job is done right. The tools of estate planning are written documents that precisely indicate your intentions, then provide the powers to accomplish them.

Elements of an estate plan include a will, trusts, life insurance policies, buy-sell agreements, joint ownership or community property, a living will, a durable power of attorney, deferred employee benefits/retirement plans and more. The first step of every estate plan is compiling an inventory of personal data – the current value of all your assets, how they are owned, your liabilities and names and addresses of intended estate beneficiaries. Outline your goals, then see an attorney who specializes in estate planning for more information.

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