Basic Estate Planning Items - Financal Web

Estate planning is generally not the most popular topic for discussion among families. And although no time may seem like a good time to discuss the subject, it must be considered that there is always a best time for it, and that time is the present. Just consider the alternative; if something unexpected were to happen to you or your spouse, do you really want those decisions to have to be managed then? In this article we’ll suggest the basic items which are necessary for a reasonably sure estate plan. Of course, your personal financial situation may dictate that you include other items tailored for the benefit of your family and your estate. Seek the assistance of a good estate planning attorney; the fees that he or she charges could be recovered many times over in the amount of estate taxes that are saved.

A will is a legal document that tells everyone, including the courts and all of your family and heirs, how and to whom you want your assets distributed after you’re gone. It dictates what assets are to be given to whom, what to do with your remaining property (such as selling it, giving it to charity, or using it to pay any remaining debts that you may have), who will care for your minor children as their legal guardians, and who will be your executor (the person who carries out your will’s instructions). A will can be very simple or extraordinarily complex. You can do it yourself or have one drawn up by an attorney. If you die without a will to direct the courts, you die intestate, meaning that your state’s laws and the court system will determine who get’s what of yours, and it may be drastically different from your intentions.

Naming a guardian for you children can, quite understandably, be a very uncomfortable thing to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s very important and should be taken care of ahead of time. You’ll want to choose someone that you trust, who is in good health, and has sufficient resources to provide for your kids. You also should consider someone who is generally of like mind as yourself, so that they will bring the kids up in much the same manner, and with the same values, as yourself.

A durable power of attorney for finances is a document that gives a person of your choice the right and ability to make financial decisions on your behalf should you becomes incapacitated and unable to do so. That person can access your accounts and sign your checks in order to pay your bills, buy and sell stocks for your portfolio if you have one, and see to all of your other financial affairs. Having a durable power of attorney can save you, your heirs and your estate from a costly court proceeding to determine guardianship. Many people choose a spouse or adult child, a trusted friend, or a family attorney to give this responsibility to.

Just as a durable power of attorney for finances gives a person the right to handle your financial affairs if you can’t do so, a durable power of attorney for health care (also known as a health care proxy) gives to an individual of your choice the right to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. A living will is another document that would be very useful; it tells your loved ones, along with healthcare providers, how you wish to be cared for should you become terminally ill, including instructions about your preferences for life support equipment. In some states both of these instruments have been replaced with a single document known as a medical directive.

Go through and organize your important documents. Get everything in order and keep them in a safe place. Some documents may be fine in a desk drawer; others may need to be kept in a fire-retardant safe. As you’re organizing and implementing your estate plan, don’t neglect to let you children and other primary heirs know where your important papers are should they become needed. Your attorney should also have copies of these documents for safekeeping.

Lastly, schedule regular estate checkups with your estate planning attorney. Every two to three years should typically be sufficient to verify that your estate decisions are still appropriate.

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