At long last… I finally got around to reading “Crash Course in Estate Planning: The Essential Guide to Wills, Trusts, and Your Personal Legacy” by Michael Palermo. I first mentioned this book over the summer, but didn’t get around to picking up a copy and looking through it until recently. In very general terms, this book is a good, non-technical reference on the ins and outs of estate planning.
The book is organized into four sections, including:
Part 1: Understanding the Estate-Planning Basics
This section gives a rundown of various types of property (probate vs. non-probate, etc.), the different tools out there (wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, living wills, etc.), an overview of the probate process, the role of the executor, etc.
Part 2: Applying the Basics: Estate-Planning Tools for Common Life Situations
This section talks about providing for children, planning for children and grandchildren with disabilities, estate planning for married couples, dealing with subsequent marriages, as well as some thoughts on charitable donations.
Part 3: Preserving Your Estate: Keeping Creditors, Spendthrifts, and the Tax Man at Bay
This section includes a general introduction to asset protection planning, and then goes on to talk about a variety of topics relating to trusts, including spendthrift trust provisions and incentive trust provisions. This section also covers the use of limited liability entities such as family limited partnerships (FLPs) and limited liability companies (LLCs) for protecting your investments.
Part 4: Estate Planning With Retirement Assets
This section covers topics related to the protection of your retirement-related assets, including 401(k)s and IRAs.
As Ric Edelman makes clear in the foreword, this is not a do-it-yourself book. Rather, it’s meant to be used in concert with an attorney, and I think that it would do well in that capacity. Not only does it provide a good overview of the pertinent topics, but it also goes into a good bit of detail in a variety of areas. Admittedly, this book is a bit dry, but that has far more to do with the topic than with the writing. In short, this book got me thinking in the right direction, and helped to crystallize in my mind exactly what it is that we need at this point (a will plus a testamentary trust to take care of our kids). When viewed in the context of billable hours, this book could save you quite a bit of money by helping you sort out exactly what it is that you do and don’t understand before you ever set foot in your attorney’s office. All in all, I’d have to recommend “Crash Course” to anyone interested in learning about estate planning. Despite having picked this up at the library, I’ll probably end up buying it myself, as this book contains a lot of valuable information, and I’d like to be able to refer back to it periodically.