Tuesday, April 26, 2005

estate planning

If someone does no estate planning at all, when he/she dies, a probate court supervises the distribution of his/her property according to state and federal law. The whole process usually takes several months and some non-zero amount of money is paid to the lawyers involved, so it's a good idea to try to arrange one's affairs to bypass probate if possible.

People who have kids and large estates usually establish living trusts, but that involves money and lawyers. A coworker recently sent out an informational email entitled "estate planning for the cheap/lazy/single", which I found very useful, being young, healthy, unmarried, and childless. His suggestions:

- Fill out Payable On Death, Transfer On Death, or Directed Beneficiary forms (they're all more or less the same) for all bank or brokerage accounts which allow them.
- Fill out the beneficiary information for all retirement plans (IRA, 401k, etc.)
- Fill out a DMV Transfer Without Probate form to transfer car ownership.
- Use Willmaker (or some other easy-to-use software) to create a will that handles any remaining accounts.

I've done all but the last; apparently I'm cheaper than he is.

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