The term estate planning is used to describe a set of documents that each address a distinct need. Documents like health care powers of attorney or financial powers of attorney ensure that people specifically chosen are in place and on-standby to assist with medical decisions or financial or legal decisions as needed. Trusts established during life also ensure for ongoing management of assets and that those assets titled and managed in the Trust will be distributed according to the specific directions written in the Trust document.
Some documents, such as a Will, only come into effect at the time of death. One of the main goals of estate planning is to accomplish property passing in the manner which is most appropriate to match both the intentions of the person who accumulated the wealth, as well as the best interest of the intended beneficiaries.
The challenge—-and the unique opportunity—of estate planning has been recognized for thousands of years. Over two thousand years ago, the Greek Philosopher Aristotle observed:
To give away money is an easy matter, and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power-nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.