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Estate Plans Cut Down Confusion When Dividing Assets

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Rochester: Estate Plans Cut Down Confusion When Dividing Assets
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Everyone needs an estate plan, which essentially lays out how want to distribute your possessions and assets after you're gone. TWC News' Tara Lynn Wagner filed this report.

You might think only old people need estate plans, or super-rich people, but the fact of the matter is you need one too.

"Whether you're worth, you know, $50,000 or $50,000,000, you have an estate," says Daniel S. Rubin, a partner at Moses & Singer LLP.

"Really, the definition of an estate is stuff. Okay, so you know, anybody who has a car, a house, investments, insurance, has an estate," says Michael Zovistoski, a Certified Financial Planner at UHY LLP.

An estate plan essentially lays out your wishes for how you want to distribute your "stuff" after you're gone. Attorney Daniel Rubin says one major component of your estate plan is your will.

"For many people that's enough, to have a simple will that says what they want to happen to their estate when they die—that they want it to go to their spouse, they want it to go to their kids, they want it go to their next door neighbor," says Rubin.

Even if you don't write one, he says you have one, because without a document, the law will simply presume where your property should go. That could cause some serious problems for your survivors.

"Siblings, while they try to get along very well it’s, you know, 'Mom said I could have this. Dad said I could have that,' and it’s best to have it in writing," Zovistoski states.

The actual document can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be, depending on your unique situation. On the one end, there are so-called "I love you" wills which simply state, "I leave everything to my spouse, or in the event of their death, my children."

"But if you have a more complex family structure, whether, you know, it’s your second marriage and you have previous kids from previous marriage, it may have to be a little bit more detailed, a little bit more—because you want to make sure those kids are taken care of as well. So it can be as detailed as you want. It can be very simple as well," says Zovistoski.

That's why you should probably sit down with a professional. Sure, you can print a basic document off the internet and fill in the your name, but chances are that document will not cover all of your specific needs.

"I theoretically could take out my son's tonsils. I probably shouldn't do it. I should probably see a professional if he needs his tonsils taken out. So people should probably see a lawyer when they want to do their estate planning," Rubin advises.

Again, a will is just one piece of the puzzle. In our next Money Matters report, we'll look at some of the other components that make up a complete estate plan.

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