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The pitfalls of your parents' estate can help you plan your own

Watching your parents age is difficult. After they are gone, you may be the one to handle their estate. Administering an estate can be a difficult experience, especially if your responsibilities overlap with your grieving process. Yet, it can also be a very enlightening process.

Do your homework before visiting your estate planning attorney

When you are ready to do your estate planning, you can always show up at your attorney's office and have him or her walk through the entire planning process with you, but there are questions he or she is going to have to ask. Having the answers ahead of time can streamline that process and help you avoid making snap decisions that you will have to change later.

Review and update your estate plan regularly to ensure accuracy

If there's one common mistake people make when dealing with their last will or estate plan other than putting it off too long, it's treating the process like a one-time responsibility. Some people will create a basic last will, trust or estate plan and then move on, assuming that they no longer have to worry about their assets and end-of-life planning.

Estate planning and artwork

Prosperous individuals are fortunate enough to be able to be extravagant when it comes to collecting things they are passionate about, such as artwork or other collectibles. Wealth allows them to purchase the best of the best, affording them the opportunity to be very particular about their taste and desires. However, particular as they may be, it is usually much easier and more fun purchasing these grand items than it is to decide what to do with them after their demise.

Why should I have a power of attorney?

Many people put off creating a will or estate plan until late in life. After all, few people who are healthy and young want to consider their own deaths. However, there's no way to predict when a sudden, debilitating medical event like a stroke could strike. Car accidents, falls and other injuries can also leave you incapacitated and unable to communicate your desires to family or medical professionals.

Estate planning allows you to rest easy

There are a lot of good reasons to do estate planning. Unfortunately, many people put it off until tomorrow. But can we ever be sure we will have a tomorrow? Life is unpredictable. That is why estate planning is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you want to rest easy and have peace of mind.

Fighting family strife with an estate plan

The Tolstoy adage "Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" is not one you wish to have applied to your family if you can help it. If you have children who are estranged from each other or are unwilling or incapable of communicating with each other, your decisions in your estate plan may cause more grief than relief.

No children. No heirs. Who will inherit my assets when I'm gone?

A few years ago, a wealthy real estate tycoon passed away at the age of 97 with no children and no other family members. The man, a Holocaust survivor, left behind a $40 million estate, but he did not have an estate plan, not even a will - at least none that anyone could find. After a thorough worldwide search for blood relatives, his fortune escheated to the state where he resided.

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