An estate plan involves the thoughtful transfer of your assets during your life and/or at death. It is highly recommended for several reasons. Some non-tax reasons include:
naming your beneficiaries (those you are giving your property to),
deciding how much, when, and under what circumstances beneficiaries will inherit,
Appointing a guardian for your minor children
identifying those who will play a part in carrying out your estate plan
Deciding how your assets will be managed if you become incapacitated and
What does estate planning involve?
Three main components are: 1) Titling arrangements, 2) beneficiary designations and 3) Estate Plan documents.
The estate plan documents include your Last Will and Testament, your Trust Agreement (if you choose to have one), your Durable Power of Attorney and your Advance Directives which include your Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
What happens without an estate plan?
The assets under your name (your probate assets) will be distributed by the court pursuant to "intestacy statutes". A traditional family situation in Nebraska of a first marriage with one or more children will look like this: the surviving spouse will receive the first $100,000K plus 1/2 of the balance of your assets; the remainder will go to your children.
The Court will also appoint a personal representative to administer your estate and a guardian for your minor children.
Your non-probate assets, which include any property owned in joint tenancy, your IRA, 401K, and life insurance policies, do not go through probate. Instead they are distributed directly to your designated beneficiaries.
Estate planning takes some time and effort, but it is well worth it.