Why should I go to the trouble of planning my estate and writing a will?

Estate planning pays real dividends—in results achieved, in dollars saved, and, most important, in security and peace of mind. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, traumatic, or even especially time consuming.

An estate plan is your blueprint for where you want your property to go after you die. Estate planning lets you do the following:

• Determine what happens to your property—who, what, when, and how. It enables you to coordinate gifts in your lifetime with bequests in your will or trust. You can apportion property among your family members, your friends, and charities that are important to you. If you don’t have a will or a trust, state law will step in and determine how to dispose of your property, in ways that you might not intend.
• Determine who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes—your executor if you have a will, and your trustee if you have a trust.
• Save money on probate, taxes, and other expenses of settling an estate.
• Be in control of your own life. A living trust can provide a way to manage your property should you become disabled. A living will or a health-care advance directive can set up a plan for your medical care, should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself.
• Coordinate estate planning with other kinds of financial planning. For example, the new tax law has made significant changes in incentives to save for education, making this an ideal time to look into planning for the education of children and grandchildren, as well as other financial issues.
• Decide whether your business will be sold or stay in the family—and if it stays in the family, who will run it.