Purdue News

September 1, 2004

Internet estate-planning preparation offered from Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Death and taxes. Few topics generate more fear, but a new Purdue University Web site strives to ease the pain of discussing both.

"Getting Ready for Estate Planning" provides a six-step approach to preparing for the after-death planning discussion.

"The purpose of the Web site is to help people overcome their anxiety about estate planning and to give them information that will enable them to better understand the process," said Sharon DeVaney, professor of consumer sciences and retailing. "This is not a do-it-yourself site, but rather the place to go before you talk to your family or see an attorney."

DeVaney said this site does not overwhelm people with "legalese," instead offering information in a user-friendly format.

"Many people are anxious and intimidated when it comes to estate planning, so this site provides incremental steps that are easy to understand and follow," DeVaney said.

DeVaney developed the site with Janet Bechman, a Purdue Extension specialist.

In addition to links and references, the site provides resources for recording financial information such as taxes, loans and bank accounts. The files may be downloaded and kept on a home computer or printed and filled out.

"Recording all this information ahead of time allows folks to have a more focused discussion with their financial adviser," Bechman said. "Time is money, and the more time you spend gathering information before you meet with a planner or attorney, the less of their time you may have to pay for."

The six-step process includes:

• Initiate estate-planning discussions - talking about plans with heirs ahead of time can actually relieve some of the stress.

• Take stock of the present situation - organize records of important papers and assets.

• Develop objectives - possibilities include providing for a surviving spouse, selecting guardians for children and minimizing probate costs.

• Choose advisers - information about different types of advisers, such as attorneys and executors, is provided with links to some referral services.

• Consider alternatives - several techniques and tools, such as wills, trusts and power of attorney, are explained with links to additional information on each.

• Review and modify - estate plans should be reviewed every couple of years and each time there is a change in the family status.

"Some of the more complicated estate planning issues involve blended families," DeVaney said. "As we see a greater number of divorces and remarriages, it becomes even more apparent that families need to understand what will happen in the event of a death."

And Bechman said estate planning is not just for the elderly or those with sizeable assets. "Anytime you have property, you should start estate planning," she said.

Additional information on estate planning can be found at the National Initiative on Financial Security in Later Life Web site that also links to the Purdue estate planning site. The national site is maintained by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

Writer: Beth Forbes (765) 494-2722, forbes@purdue.edu

Sources: Sharon DeVaney (765) 494-8300, sdevaney@purdue.edu

Janet Bechman (765) 494-8309, jcb@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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