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Estate Planning

Five Documents to Get Your Estate Plan Started

Estate Planning Post-Mortem - MacElree Harvey

While no one knows precisely what will happen in the future, one of the most important things you can do, is prepare for the unexpected by creating an estate plan that concisely lays out what would happen to your assets in the event of incapacity or death. If you do not have your own estate plan, your state has one for you, but you probably would want something different. Knowing exactly where to start can be an overwhelming task, but here are five essential documents that can begin the formation of a great estate plan.

  1. Living will — A living will conveys your desires regarding end-of-life medical care. It spells out the extent of life-extending care you wish to receive, in case you are no longer able to communicate these wishes on your own. For example, you can request that medical personnel perform invasive life-saving procedures such as resuscitation or tube feeding as needed. Alternately, you can put in place a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order and request only comfort care.
  2. Last will and testament — This particular document defines how and where you want your property and other assets to be distributed. Everything from your real estate holdings to investments and even digital assets. In addition, the last will and testament assigns guardians for minor children. The will also defines whom will be your Personal Representative, the person who will facilitate the dissolution of your estate. Your will can also specify your funeral arrangements.
  3. Beneficiary designations — Beneficiary designations determine who you want to acquire a specific asset. These designations are usually made within the fiscal assets itself, such as a life insurance policy or an investment account. It’s essential to keep your beneficiary designations current after a major life change such as marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or birth of a child.
  4. Power of Attorney or POA — This document identifies an “agent” or person who can act on your behalf if you are no longer able to. Typically, with the Power of Attorney, you can be rather specific or broad in whom you assign the authority to. In some cases, a different family member may be in charge of medical care while another person is responsible to make decisions regarding financial situations.
  5. Inventory — Once you have completed the prior four legal documents, it’s crucial to think about how your beneficiaries will access your accounts once you’ve passed. One way to do this is create a spread sheet that lists everything from bank accounts, to real estate deeds and even insurance policies. Your Personal Representative will need passwords for online accounts and may need physical copies of birth, marriage, divorce and Social Security records. Finally, provide thorough contact information for all parties such as your banker, lawyer, financial advisor and insurance agent.

Talking about estate planning might appear grim, but it is crucial to leaving a legacy you want. We can help determine what steps you should to take to safeguard your estate and make the estate planning process as easy as possible.

Source: Statesville Record and Landmark