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When you hear the term “estate”, do you instantly associate it with something only the wealthy have? If so, you are mistaken, mama! Everyone has an estate. An estate is simply your net worth including money, property, licenses, and any other sort of assets that are legally yours.


While it’s true some estates are far more impressive than others, responsible individuals along the entire spectrum of personal wealth have an obligation to make their wishes known as it concerns the distribution of their assets.

Make a Plan for Your Assets or Else

If you’re reading this post, I can safely assume you’re a mother, so I already know you want to do the right thing for your loved ones.

I urge you not to put your head in the sand regarding this matter because estate planning is relevant to you.


The fact is, when you make an estate plan, what you are actually doing is creating Plan B.


Oh, you didn’t know there’s a Plan A?

Your State Has Plans for You

Pay attention to this sobering news: If you were to die today, all your assets would be in the hands of the State.

The State, specifically your state of residence, already has a plan in place for your estate (and you may not like it).

Ah, yes, and your children.

If you and your spouse were to suddenly pass away, who would raise your children?

If you leave that decision up to the courts, your babies may end up somewhere you would never have intended them to be.

Now that I’ve (hopefully) given you a bit of a wakeup call, let’s dive into this.

“Estate planning is an ongoing process.”

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What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the ongoing process of creating legal documents that make arrangements for your assets following your death. It is also the means by which you make arrangement for your children. It is an important process that should be done with the help of a financial advisor, lawyer, or another professional who is qualified to ensure all the bases are covered.

As such, this post does not constitute any sort of legal advice. I’m simply making you aware of some things to consider as you formulate a plan that meets the needs of your family.

Please speak with your financial advisor or your lawyer for more guidance.

Begin with a will

Most people are familiar with the concept of a will. Your will is a document that gives you the chance to spell out your wishes regarding how your assets are distributed, final communication with loved ones, and can be used in conjunction with a trust. There are different types of wills, but not all are considered legally binding.

Even with a will in place, there is a possibility a probate court will have to oversee the administration of your estate if it is large enough. It is important to name an individual as your Executor so they can work with the court during the lengthy process of dividing your estate. You may be able to avoid putting your loved ones through months or years of waiting for the probate process to be resolved by creating a trust.

Establish a trust

Your children cannot inherit your goods immediately upon your passing without a living trust. A living trust is simply a document in which you name a person or a professional representative as a trustee to handle your finances, your assets, and to make provisions for your loved ones. A living trust can also be enforced if you are alive yet cannot handle the responsibilities of managing your estate.

Some consider a will unnecessary if a living trust is in place, but it is wise to have both. If you were unable to transfer all your assets into the trust before you died, then your will would provide guidance for how the court is to handle those assets.

Name a guardian

Losing a parent is a traumatic event for a child. Losing a parent and then waiting for the courts to figure out who is now responsible for raising that child compounds that trauma. When you are writing your will, name the person whom you would like to take over the rearing of your children if the worst were to happen.


This is not a decision that should be made lightly. You and your spouse must agree and then you must speak with your chosen guardian to ensure they are willing to step into that role if circumstances require him or her to do so.


With such a weighty matter to consider, it is likely you will need to have more than one conversation with any potential guardians before you make the designation legally binding.

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Name beneficiaries

Assets such as bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, 401k plans, and IRA plans give you the opportunity to name beneficiaries. The beauty of this is with a designated beneficiary, these assets become payable on death. A vital part of your estate plan is keeping your beneficiaries’ information current on all applicable accounts.

Power of attorney

In the event you are unable to make decisions about your finances, property, or medical care, you can select one person to act on your behalf in a document called Power of Attorney. The person you name as your agent can be anyone you choose, no legal background necessary. There are variations of the Power of Attorney document that limit how another person may make choices for you. Learn more about the differences here.

Arrange your funeral

Planning your own funeral is another one of those tasks that make estate planning feel downright disturbing, but it’s the right thing to do. Leaving those decisions to grieving relatives is unfair. Expecting them to foot the bill is selfish and potentially cruel if they are already dealing with financial strain.


On a positive note, planning your funeral is a chance to comfort your loved ones with the words and experiences you would love for them to remember you by. In that spirit, making these final arrangements for yourself can be considered a loving act of closure.

And if you’ve got a bit of a nasty streak, you could also take the opportunity to tell off some folks one last time with a guarantee that they’ll hear you out — few would dare to get up an walk out of a funeral service!


That last bit was a joke (too far?), but it is important to take this step seriously.

Inform Others of Your Wishes

Outline your wishes for your funeral in a document and provide copies to your attorney and relatives. It’s important not to lump this information with your will or living trust because these documents are usually read following a funeral.  


Making others aware of your wishes in advance is a good strategy to ensure there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. Still, be prepared for some emotional responses. Your loved ones don’t want to think about life without you, so be gentle yet firm when you have the conversation.


In terms of the actual service, that will vary according to your beliefs, preferences, and budget. When it comes to selecting how your body is disposed of and your final resting place, it is ideal either to prepay for services or set aside funds in a funeral trust with a funeral home.


There are a number of goods and services to choose from when you are funeral shopping and the choices can be overwhelming. Fortunately there are numerous businesses from which you can receive guidance. Popular organizations include Funeral Consumers Alliance, AARP, and National Funeral Directors Association.

What Are My Next Steps?

Now that you have an idea of how to get your estate planning under way, you may be wondering how to draw up the documents you need.

There are online services such as Legal Zoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer that allow you purchase customized versions of many of these documents for relatively low prices. You may be even to consult with an attorney depending on the package you choose. These plans may be a good start for sorting out a simple estate, but don’t rely upon them indefinitely. Remember, estate planning is an ongoing process. The documents you draw up today will need to be adjusted as your life goes on.

Better Options

A far better option is to consult with a financial planner or attorney in person. Perhaps your husband’s company offers these services for free or at a discount. It’s worth getting in touch with HR to find out what your options are.


Your bank may be able to recommend a good financial planner in your area. Another option is to contact professional organizations for financial planners that will put you in touch with members in good standing. You can contact the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils or the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners.


What is your current estate planning priority? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

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