The late comedian George Carlin was known for his satirical observations of everyday things. One of his most famous performances was entitled "A Place for My Stuff," which was a brilliant commentary on how people view their belongings, regardless of its value. In honor of his memory and perhaps illuminating look how we view our assets, let's look at the first part of the definition of Estate Planning through this "George Carlin" lens.
So what exactly IS estate planning? When I tell people that I am an Estate Planning attorney, the usual response is "oh that's nice." The after a pause, they ask, "So what is it that you actually do? What exactly IS estate planning?" The short answer that I usually give is, "I create Wills, Trusts, and help clients with Estate Tax Planning." And that usually satisfies their polite yet fleeting curiosity. But for those of you who have stumbled across this blog, you are likely looking for a more in depth description of what an estate-planning attorney actually does. So, I will indulge you with a long answer. First of all, there are as many definitions of estate planning as there are estate-planning attorneys. And although there are more official resources, Wikipedia is easily accessible and where many go to get their information. So I'll start there: Wikipedia defines estate planning as: "the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate during a person's life. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses." Say what? That's a lot of fancy legal words. So to make it clear, I'll break this definition down into three parts, all of which will be explained in three separate upcoming blog posts....
As the saying goes, there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. Although you cannot fend off death, you can make arrangements on how to reduce the amount of estate taxes you will pay upon your death.
The second part of the Wikipedia definition explains that Estate Planning "attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate . . ."