Estate Planning: What it is, and Why you Should be Doing it

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Estate Planning: What it is, and Why you Should be Doing it

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Planning for your death doesn't exactly sound like fun.


While you do need to consider some sombre ideas objectively in planning your estate, it's not difficult, and no matter who you are - you should be doing it.

Estate Planning

Your estate is everything you own at death. Estate planning is about organizing your affairs, deciding who gets what, and setting out your wishes clearly. 

Who is it For?

It's not enough to say "I'm dead. What do I care?" If you care about anybody in your life, then you'll care about the unavoidable work in wrapping up your affairs. Estate planning makes it easier.

Even if you're young, single, orphaned, have no family, and are penniless, do you want the government getting your record player and stamp collection, or somebody appreciative instead? Remember: local charities and community organizations can benefit from your legacy too.

Estate Plan Components

Think of your estate plan as a kit or guide that a stranger could follow. Since you might not keep all components in one place, use a central estate planning notebook that details the exact location of each component.

Your estate plan includes:

  • Will
  • Power of Attorney
  • Insurance Policies
  • Your latest Financial Review (this is a huge part)
  • Pension/Retirement Plan information
  • Security Deposit Box information
  • Memberships (associations, gyms, subscriptions, etc - anything your executor might need to cancel)
  • Contact information for people to be notified: beneficiaries, executors, family, friends, employers, etc
  • Contact information for your lawyer, accountant, and financial planner

Note: Automatic insurance benefits sometimes come with certain memberships. How would your brother know that a random association you belong to includes $10,000 of life insurance? With an estate plan, he'll know.

Key Players

You pick the teams, and set up the playing field. Here's who to consider:


A beneficiary receives something from your estate after you die.

Contingent Beneficiaries

If a beneficiary dies before you, your contingent beneficiary gets the goods. Designate contingent beneficiaries for everything.


Your executor follows the instructions in your estate plan and will. You'll want somebody organized and level-headed, and the clearer your estate plan is, the easier their job will be.

Contingent Executor

As with beneficiaries, designate somebody in reserve to step up if your executor predeceases you. If you prefer, you can give the task to your lawyer (they'll subtract their fees from your estate).

Although it may be nice to surprise a beneficiary with a windfall, don't surprise your executor. Ask in advance if your executor and contingent executors are up to the task, and tell them where your estate plan is kept.

Hand-Written Wills

Although hand-written or template wills are better than nothing, they often leave ugly loopholes. Estates are regularly held up (and drained) for decades due to disputes over vague clauses requiring court resolution.

To be safe, the short-term financial pain of having a lawyer draft your will might be worthwhile, and they'll keep a copy of the will on file for extra security if yours disappears.

Making Changes

You'll probably need to change beneficiaries or clauses in your will over the years. This isn't expensive or difficult; just add a 1-page addendum to the end.

Updating Your Estate Planning Kit

Similar to performing semi-annual financial reviews, your estate plan requires annual review. Keep the components up to date, and ensure your estate plan reflects any changes.

It's Not Morbid!

Your estate plan is for peace of mind; for you and your loved ones, now and later.

Don't think about death when you plan your estate; think about life. Because that's what it's all about.


How to Perform a Semi-Annual Financial Review 

The Emotional and Financial Importance of a Will 

Financial Planners are Not Only for the Wealthy

Nora Dunn, Guest Life Style and Travel Blogger for Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Services, Inc.Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora

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  • Great overview of estate planning and why everyone should be doing it, and who the planning is really for in the end.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Very Informative.

    My brother suggested this idea already earlier especially that all of us are working expats. It is easier for our families back home in case something happens to us.

  • With accounts at different institutions and bills with varying due dates, budgeting is difficult.

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