The process of developing a sound estate plan of your own begins with understanding the basic ingredients common to all good estate plans. Our decades of experience working with thousands of clients have taught us that an estate plan is sound only if it helps one accomplish several important goals. Almost universally, our clients state that they want their estate plans to achieve for them the following objectives:

• I want to control my property while I am alive;
• I want to take care of my loved ones and myself if I become disabled;
• I want to give what I have to whom I want, when I want, the way I want; and
• Whenever possible, I want to save tax dollars, professional fees, and court costs.

If you have these same goals for yourself and your family, then this book is written specifically with you in mind because a good estate plan can help you accomplish each of these objectives. Without a good estate plan, you and your family will probably lose control over your property, suffer through unnecessary court proceedings, and pay excessive taxes. The lack of an estate plan may also deprive your family of many other legal protections otherwise available and also deprive them of the opportunity to receive from you a lasting legacy designed to bring your family closer together. Fortunately, all of these ills can be easily avoided by implementing a sound estate plan that passes your property to your loved ones in the way that you want.

All good estate planning starts with making sure that your property is legally owned in an appropriate way. The legal community uses the technical term “title” to describe how property is owned and it is exceptionally important that you understand the legal rules that govern title.