Estate planning is the practice of arranging the distribution, preservation and management of an individual's assets after death. It also encompasses the management of an individual's assets and/or financial obligations should s/he become mentally incapacitated and deemed unable to make sound financial decisions.
Typically, the assets that could comprise an individual's estate would include real estate, automobiles, equities/shares, artwork, various insurances, retirement accounts or pensions and debt. There are several reasons why an individual would wish to plan their estate. These reasons could include, the preservation of family wealth and/or heirlooms, ensuring that surviving spouses, immediate family and extended family etc are provided for, the funding of education for children or grandchildren or, increasingly these days, leaving a legacy to a charitable institution.
Individuals have various reasons for planning an estate, such as preserving family wealth, providing for surviving spouse and children, funding children and/or grandchildren's education, or leaving a legacy behind to a charitable cause. In most instances, the first step in planning their estate is the drafting of a last will and testament.