The Commonsense Guide to Estate Planning

Financial planners Robert Runde and Barry Zischang have written a guidebook about the two topics Americans seem to despise or fear most: death and taxes. Further, they have set for themselves a daunting task: Not only do they want to help people understand the process of estate planning, but they also want to make them enjoy the ordeal.

It is no surprise that 75 percent of Americans do not even have wills, and even more have made no plans for the management of their estates; an hour with this book will explain why. Words like “complicated,” “harsh,” “confusing,” and “irrational” are hardly adequate to explain the current laws governing the disbursement of estates. The process seems impersonal, needlessly bureaucratic, and in some cases downright arbitrary. Fortunately, there are people like Runde and Zischang who realize that, despite the complexities of the legal and financial systems in this country, Americans need to understand the rudiments of estate planning to protect both themselves and their heirs. In THE COMMONSENSE GUIDE TO ESTATE PLANNING, the authors provide numerous reminders, caveats, and warnings about the dangers of putting off the task. They also dispel some commonly held myths about what is taxable, what can pass to heirs without probate, and what happens when people die without having prepared a will and other documents indicating how their real property is to be distributed upon their death. Runde and Zischang provide excellent, down-to- earth case studies which make it plain that estate planning is not something simply for the rich and famous; everyday Americans clearly owe it to themselves and their loved ones to plan for that day which will inevitably come for everyone.

This book may drive readers to a financial planner or to an attorney—or to both—and it should. The authors want people to realize that estate planning is serious business and often requires professional help. Their point, made insistently throughout the twenty chapters of THE COMMONSENSE GUIDE, is that by not planning carefully a person could leave heirs with substantial work, and create undue stress and hard feelings among those one cares for most. Few would want to leave such a legacy.