Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Resources on general estate planning information

Clients and even other advisors often ask where to find resources on general estate planning information, such as the differences between wills and revocable living trusts or the basic steps of the probate process. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but can also be overwhelming and does not necessarily deliver the most useful information at the top of your search results. Following are several of my favorite resources on fundamental estate planning issues and questions.

First, The Florida Bar's consumer pamphlets on estate planning are excellent. Unfortunately the website's auto-generated links are terribly long. Here is the link to the relevant pamphlets on wills, trusts, and estates, or you may use this much simpler shortcut link:

For example, the pamphlet on "The Revocable Trust in Florida" discusses some of the common myths regarding these topics. For instance, all assets are not subject to probate after someone passes away. It also covers "Do I benefit by avoiding probate?" and cites the general example of a multi-jurisdictional probate situation -- where someone owns real property in multiple states -- as one illustration of the proper use of a revocable trust.

The Florida Bar's website contains a vast amount of additional resources. In another blog post, I mentioned the Florida Bar Journal, the archives of which are available for more than ten years. You may also view any Florida lawyer's profile via the "Find a Lawyer" online directory.

Second, the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law website, which was recently redesigned along with the rest of the ABA website, also offers numerous resources from basic to very advanced information (including complete continuing legal education materials from previous programs). The "Estate Planning [Frequently Asked Questions" pages cover many basic estate planning and probate/trust administration issues.

The third favorite is CCH's excellent "Financial Planning Toolkit." I have praised this site and CCH's companion "Business Owner's Toolkit" for years. Each features an expandable "tree" of information on relevant topics. An entire portion of the Financial Planning Toolkit is devoted to estate planning, which explains basic and more advanced concepts and techniques to achieve a person's planning goals.

I hope that others find these resources useful. Everyone should of course consult their own professional advisors in their own state to determine how to implement planning that achieves their specific goals based on their circumstances. Being informed with accurate general information should help to facilitate the planning process, though.