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Simplifying estate planning

Estate planning is a task that many people put off doing. As a matter of fact, a 2015 survey from revealed that 44 percent of parents in the United States do not have wills or living trusts. Is it because they do not understand the importance of having these documents in place?

It is more likely because they see estate planning as a drudging task, not to mention there may be some dreaded and possibly emotional conversations that need to take place with loved ones. It may simplify the process by following a blueprint of what you will need. For instance, if you are a parent or have heirs, your estate planning should include a:

  • Will and/or trust
  • Power of attorney
  • Health care proxy
  • Do not resuscitate or advance directive document

These are the minimum documents, and an estate attorney can help you draw them up. Some decisions will need to be made, which may require having a conversation with your loved ones or friends, such as who your executor will be, and if you have children, who would be their guardian if something happened to both you and your spouse. An estate attorney can explain the differences between trusts and wills, and advise you of which would be recommended for your circumstances.

In addition to the estate planning documents, there are other documents that your heirs may need access to should a critical emergency arise:

  • Bank and/or brokerage accounts
  • 401(k), IRA or pension account information
  • Names of creditor or account holders who are auto-paid from bank or brokerage accounts
  • Safe-deposit box information
  • Annuities or savings bonds
  • Insurance policies (life, auto, home and so on)

Not only should this information be in an accessible place that is shared with heirs, a power of attorney should be signed with someone you trust to access the accounts if you are deceased or incapacitated. The name of that person should also be accessible to heirs. Remember that estate planning is an act of love and a gift to your family or heirs. Don't put it off.

Source: Money, "24 Essential Pieces of Estate Planning Paperwork You Need," Jill Schlesinger, accessed Nov. 30, 2017

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