What is Estate Planning? Estate planning is the process of creating a plan to manage and distribute your estate during your life and after you pass away. An estate plan is a clear and concise way to express your wishes. In our view, estate planning is a gift to your family, friends and other beneficiaries so that there is no dispute as to your wishes. Estate planning also includes directives if you become ill or injured during your life. In this case, you decide who will take care of your finances and make decisions about your health. What is an Estate? An Estate includes your home, other real estate, certificates of deposit, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and personal property. An estate plan allows you to distribute these items based on your wishes. What is the benefit of an estate plan? Estate planning allows you to maintain control of your assets, minimize expenses and quickly distribute funds. Our office typically recommends a trust to reach these ends. With a trust, you can avoid probate which can be an expensive, drawn out proceeding where your wishes may not be carried out. A trust exists beyond your death so that your estate can be managed and disbursed after your death. What if I don’t have an estate plan? Someone who dies without a valid will or estate plan is “intestate.” In that case, the probate court will seek out your heirs to disburse your funds. Heirs are the persons who are related to you. If there are no heirs, the State of Florida will take the decedent’s assets.