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Strategies for developing and communicating an estate plan

A New York resident who has assets to share with family members, charities or associates should plan the broad strokes of their estate plan before delving into the details of the paperwork. The estate holder should establish their goals for wealth, such as funding educations or creating inter-generational wealth. At the same time, they could benefit from communicating their values and goals to heirs.

Approaches to asset distribution fall into the three categories of fair, equal or equitable. Fair estate divisions grant heirs access to funds to pursue their goals on their own terms. For example, children might receive money to pay for trade school or a university education depending on their interests and talents. Although the monetary amounts would be different, each heir receives a fair distribution. Equal divisions simply grant each heir the same portion of an estate. An equitable approach, however, could take into account one heir's contributions to growing a business or caring for an elder. When such a person receives more of an estate, the distribution equitably recognizes extra efforts or sacrifices.

As an estate plan takes shape, a benefactor should inform heirs about its terms. These discussions could help heirs understand the legacy the benefactor wishes to perpetuate. Communication might also allow people to prepare for the arrival of new assets.

When a person has decided on goals for an estate, consultations with an estate planning attorney could be appropriate. An attorney could investigate how local or federal tax laws might influence distributions. Legal research might reveal how to address challenges like funding the care of a special needs child or protecting an heir from creditors. The documents, such as a will, trust or power of attorney, needed for the estate plan could be prepared by an attorney.

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