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Changing perspectives on estate planning

We recently came across an article about estate planning that made some excellent points about the benefits of planning. Everyone knows that estate planning is vital for those who are married and have children, and for those who are business owners or have significant investments, properties or other financial interests.

However, this article dealt with some of those who are at first glance perhaps less obviously in need of carefully considered estate planning: namely, single people with no children.

The article begins with an attention-grabbing line: "I don't think much about dying." Of course, it's not a topic anyone likes to dwell on, but we find ourselves forced by life to eventually examine death and what will happen after it to those we love.

The writer of the article found herself forced by circumstances to examine her own death.

The writer's mother had died and had left a house to the writer and writer's brother. The author had expected the house to be divided equally among her and her seven siblings, but she learned from her mother's will that her mother had had different ideas.

So the writer began to ponder her own will -- and lack thereof.

She recognized that to die without a will would mean that her estate would be divided up by the state between her siblings and that everyone else important to her would be excluded.

At first, she tried to decide how to distribute her belongings fairly between family and friends. Then she hit upon a realization: "I enjoy giving friends and family presents," she wrote. "So why not think of it as gift-giving in the afterlife to those people who were kind and I held dear? "

So she went about detailing for her estate planning attorney how her mutual funds, real estate, art, heirlooms and all the rest would be distributed.

"As a result, I have come to view my will as a document of the living, not the dead," she concludes with evident satisfaction.

Source: New York Times, "In Writing Her Will, It's the Little Things That Matter," Nov. 13, 2012

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