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Estate planning lessons hidden beneath the headlines

For most Pennsylvania readers a first encounter with estate planning comes when an older member of the family passes away. For many, this means children or teens will learn about a will or a trust when a grandparent or great grandparent passes away. However, this experience might not leave us with a lot of detail about what estate planning really is and how it will apply to our own lives. It can be useful, then, to look at real estate plans that make the news to find out more about the process and learn some important dos and don’ts.

One recent case that has been in the news is the estate of the late actor Paul Walker. Mr. Walker passed away suddenly after a car crash, survived by his parents and his daughter. Although Mr. Walker was only 40 at the time he passed away, he had already had an effective estate plan for 12 years. His will was created back in 2011 when his star was first beginning to rise at age 28. Most people might think that is too young to consider making a will, but the truth is that putting something in place early and reassessing it later is better than not creating a plan at all.

Another positive element from Mr. Walker’s estate plan that others can take note of is to name a guardian for one’s children. This is important to do even if you are married or have a verbal agreement with a friend or family member that they will be a guardian for your child if something happens to you, since those agreements are not legally binding. At the same time, something could happen with a spouse that would make them unavailable to continue to care for the child and in that case it is valuable to have a back-up plan. 

Source: Forbes, “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate,” Danielle And Andy Mayoras, Feb. 10, 2014.

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