The fullness of one's life is never completed until the consequences of one's demise are thoughtfully settled.
Talking about one's legacy can be discomforting. Estate planning, after all, is primarily about what will happen to your dependents and your assets when you are no longer around. It has been my experience, however, that once my clients understand how estate planning protects them and their loved ones, they get over their initial discomfort.
When you create your estate plan, you do it out of love. Having a plan means that your loved ones are exactly the ones who will inherit your hard-earned wealth. Your estate plan can also include guardianship arrangements for your minor children, to ensure that they are cared for and well-protected by someone who loves them.
Proper estate planning also helps to ensure that the taxation of your estate can be minimized. Most of us don't have enough wealth to be taxed at the federal level, but most of us also still have to pay estate tax at the state level. When it is crafted with proper strategies in mind, your estate plan could provide for your heirs to inherit the maximum that the law permits.
You can also use estate planning to create deep and lasting impact on the charities you care about, long after you are gone. Something as simple as giving your securities or life insurance to a charity you believe in can help them do the work you believe in for decades to come.
Lastly, as you age, you may become less able to care for yourself, or perhaps become entirely unable to do so. An estate plan that includes health directives and powers of attorney can help ensure that your wishes regarding your own well-being are respected. It also frees your loved ones from having to make very difficult and often wrenching choices for you when you can not.
This short guide covers just the basics of estate planning, so it's not meant to be exhaustive. It will, however, help you get started on what may well be the most important planning you'll ever do in your life. Read it, mull over it, and begin the key conversations with yourself and your loved ones about the imprint and legacy you wish to create.