To ignore estate planning for small estates can be a huge mistake.

A small estate may not incur estate taxes, but we all will incur funeral costs, medical expenses, loan and credit card debt obligations, state and local taxes and administration fees that are applied during estate settlement.

Debt concerns can include a mortgage, car loans, unpaid school loans and recurring bills. Failure to plan can result in liquidation of assets, sometimes at a discount to cover obligations. Modest estates can pose planning challenges because liquidity may not be there.

Some planning tools to consider:

• joint ownership
• beneficiary designation
• Will
• Living Trust
• Durable Power of Attorney
• Life Insurance
• Long Term Care Insurance
• Reverse Mortgage (if over age 62)

Some issues everyone should address:

• avoid family disputes - Will and/or trust considerations
• plan of succession - who gets what and when
• election of executor and/or guardian for minor children
• update beneficiary designations on policies and joint accounts or accounts of convenience
• life, disability and long term insurance considerations


Making sure all family members understand your wishes can go a long way in preventing post-death battles and hurt feelings. Just as important, you should review your estate plan every few years or when significant changes occur. Just as important the above considerations have to be coordinated in order to void inconsistencies.