Creating a clear and well-constructed estate plan takes a lot of work, but it's worth it. It allows you to have the last say on what you would like to do with the wealth that you worked hard to accumulate.

These six books can help you move forward with your estate planning while making the process less daunting.

Key Takeaways

  • The Legacy Journey and Passion for Giving both cover giving your assets to charitable organizations.
  • Beyond the Grave is a comprehensive handbook that explains estate-planning basics, while Family Trusts spells out how trusts work and how they benefit an estate plan.
  • 8 Ways to Avoid Probate shares strategies to implement, and Get It Together helps readers set up a system to organize all documents associated with an estate plan.

1. The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity

Over the last few decades, the name Dave Ramsey has become synonymous with the act of getting out of debt. After filing for personal bankruptcy in his late 20s, Ramsey built a multimillion-dollar financial coaching empire that focuses on helping middle-class families live a debt-free life.

Unlike Ramsey's other books, The Legacy Journey puts little emphasis on everyday money management. Instead, it focuses on how to invest, spend, and give away a portion of your wealth after amassing it. An evangelical Christian, Ramsey uses the book to talk about wealth from a Biblical perspective.

The Legacy Journey also gives readers an inside look at how Ramsey constructed his own estate plan. He shares some of the ways he structured trusts for his children when they were minors, as well as how he and his wife choose the charitable organizations they give to. 

2. A Passion for Giving: Tools and Inspiration for Creating a Charitable Foundation

As a way to continue their legacies, many people wish to leave a portion of their wealth to various nonprofit organizations and other special causes. A Passion for Giving serves as a guide for anyone looking to make charitable giving an important component in their estate plan.

Beyond a will, proper estate planning also entails purchasing sufficient life insurance, naming transfer on death beneficiaries for retirement and other investment accounts, setting up trusts for heirs, and even allocating funds for different charitable organizations.

In addition to sharing case studies of how wealthy philanthropists go about donating their money, authors Peter Klein and Angelica Berrie include a step-by-step guide to starting and managing a private family foundation, as well as how to properly invest the foundation's assets so they grow over time.

3. Beyond the Grave, Revised and Updated Edition: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others)

Written by Gerald Condon and Jeffrey Condon, an attorney with several decades of experience practicing estate law, Beyond the Grave is a comprehensive handbook on the basics of estate planning. The book explains what common terms mean and includes strategies to minimize tax liabilities for heirs of an estate. It also shares tips on how estate owners can avoid leaving an inheritance that would divide their families. 

4. Family Trusts: A Guide for Beneficiaries, Trustees, Trust Protectors, and Trust Creators

Trusts are instruments that are commonly used in estate planning. They help to minimize estate taxes and prevent creditors from seizing certain assets. Family Trusts provides all parties involved in a trust, grantors, trustees, and beneficiaries, with basic information on what a trust is and how it works. This book by Hartley Goldstone, James Hughes Jr., and Keith Whitaker also gives grantors suggestions on how exactly to structure a trust.

5. 8 Ways to Avoid Probate

After someone passes away, the entire estate goes into a legal process to validate his or her will, appoint an executor to distribute the estate’s assets to its heirs, and pay off the final debts and taxes owed by that estate. This is known as probate, and it often takes months and sometimes even years for it to be complete. As such, many families incur large legal fees and have their inheritance delayed as a result of probate.

As the name implies, 8 Ways to Avoid Probate shares eight different strategies that estate owners can use to immediately transfer assets to their beneficiaries upon their death, reducing what goes to probate. Written by Mary Randolph, the most recent edition also covers changes to estate and gift tax rules in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

6. Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To

Get It Together gives readers practical tips for organizing and securing all of their important documents. It is a great resource for someone concerned that, should they die, their family might have trouble finding their documents. These might include passwords, bank statements, insurance policies, and information on retirement accounts. Authors Melanie Cullen and Shae Irving help readers set up a system with a practical step-by-step workbook.

The Bottom Line

Although you might find thinking about your eventual death hard to stomach, it is very important to invest time, energy, and money into constructing a comprehensive estate plan. Every adult, not just the wealthy, should spell out who they would want to inherit their assets.

Without a last will and testament, you run the risk of having a judge determine how to distribute your assets among your family and friends, following your passing. This is a problem because a court’s decision may not necessarily reflect what your wishes for your estate would have been had you prepared a will.

Proper estate planning can also help to significantly reduce your estate’s overall tax liability, resulting in a larger inheritance for your heirs. While writing a will and setting up trusts might require assistance from professionals, these six books can provide an excellent start for anyone who is looking to create an estate plan.