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Getting back to estate planning basics

Sometimes a process can be so overwhelming that focusing on the foundations of that process can help to make it more manageable. The process of estate planning can certainly be overwhelming and foreign. Therefore, it can help to focus on the basics and allow your attorney to guide you through any complexities or confusing nuance that you may encounter.

First, ask yourself whether you have already taken care of the most basic and arguably important documents that you will need to ground your estate plan. Do you have a will? Do you have a power of attorney for health care? Do you have a power of attorney for financial matters? These three critical documents are basically a necessity for everyone over the age of 17.

Second, anticipate when you will need to update these documents. Estate planning is a living process. Generally you will not execute your estate plan and then never touch it again. As your life and relationships evolve, so will your estate plan. Should you marry, divorce, have children or lose close loved ones in the future, you will likely need to update your estate planning documents and your beneficiary designations accordingly.

Finally, if you are resisting creating an estate plan, consider the consequences that may befall you and your loved ones if you fail to embrace this process. Not only may your loved ones be sucked into numerous disputes over your estate in the event of your death, your wishes may not be respected if you do not make them legally enforceable. When your end-of-life care, your burial and your property wishes are at stake, it is important to overcome your resistance and execute an estate plan.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Common Estate-Planning Mistakes,” Jan. 13, 2015

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