UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
DIVISION OF AGRICULTURE
Cooperative Extension Service
Family, Youth and 4-H Education
Estate Planning Defined
Lynn R. Russell, Ph.D.
Judith R. Urich,
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What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning, a rather compli
cated process, has a straight-forward
definition. In short, estate planning is
arranging for the orderly transfer of
your assets (property) following
death. The ideal estate plan
minimizes taxes, expenses, and
delays, and assures that your assets
reach intended heirs.
Some mistakenly believe that an
“estate plan” is a single document
with a standardized format drawn up
by an attorney. It’s not. It is an
individualized plan based on your
unique situations and circumstances.
And, although it is recommended to
utilize the assistance of professionals
for certain parts of an estate plan,
much of the actual process can be
done by the individual developing the
plan. Other common misconceptions
are that estate plans are only for the
wealthy or those in their later years
of life. Wrong again. Who can define
“wealthy” and who can predict when
their last year of life will occur?
The bottom line – if you own
property, you need an estate plan.
Some are quite simple – others quite
complex. No two are just alike, but all
require some or all of the following
■	 Inventory property to determine
what you own and what you owe.
■	 Understand how your property is
■	 Name beneficiaries.
■	 Identify strategies to avoid
probate or to reduce the amount
of property which must pass
through probate court.
■	 Prepare a will.
■	 Use trusts, if necessary.
■	 Evaluate insurance policies.
■	 Identify strategies to minimize
taxes and expenses associated
with the distribution of your
■	 Select professionals to assist with
the development of an estate