What is estate planning vs. estate administration?

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Estate planning is the process of organizing a person’s personal and financial affairs. The objectives are to maximize the individual’s enjoyment of his or her estate during his or her lifetime, as well as the beneficiaries’ enjoyment of the estate after the individual’s death.

Estate planning

• Managing the individual’s real and personal property during his or her lifetime and providing for the management and disposition of the property before and after his or her death;
• Structuring business, investment, and employee compensation arrangements to better achieve these goals;
• Executing testamentary and other documents to protect and manage the individual’s estate during his or her lifetime, in the event of the individual’s incapacity or financial misfortune, and following his or her death;
• Planning for personal and health care decision making in the event of the individual’s incapacity; and
• Minimizing the impact of many different types of taxes.

Kinyon RS, Moore GM. Overview of Estate Planning Practice. California Education of the Bar (CEB).

Estate or Trust Administration

In contrast to estate planning, estate or trust administration is putting the estate plan into action following the death or incapacity of the client. Depending on the complexity of the estate plan this may be relatively straightforward (but not easy) or quite complicated. The attorney who set up the estate plan may be available to assist the fiduciary, be it a personal representative or trustee, in the execution of their duties but will rarely assume that role herself. See Should your lawyer be the fiduciary (trustee or administrator)?

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