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Here’s What You Need to Know About Estate Planning

“Don't have an up-to-date estate plan? You're not alone. More than 70% of Americans don't, including more than half of all baby boomers. That's why we're sharing our best tips for creating one.”

Estate-planning basics

The first and most fundamental fact: everyone needs an estate plan. Whether you are wealthy or just getting by, older or a young parent, you need to have an estate plan.

Estate planning doesn’t have to be scary or complicated. Many people feel that creating a will and other related documents will be overwhelming.  However, it doesn’t have to be. An experienced estate planning attorney will help, by teaching you what your particular situation requires. It won’t take as long as you think and the time and expense you save your heirs, make having a professional do this for you well worth the money spent.

You can make a difference with your estate plan. Many people use their estate plans to give to a charity or cause, that is important to them. Many use a charitable gift in their will, known as a “bequest,” to leave money behind—often the biggest donation they make. It’s a way to build a legacy and know that you’ve contributed to making the world—or a small corner of it—a better place.

If your family includes minor children, you need a will that names a legal guardian, if something should happen and you and their other parent are no longer able to care for them. You don’t want someone else making this decision. You can also appoint someone who will be in charge of finances for your children.

If you have “furry kids,” aka pets, you can also choose a guardian for them. Many pets end up in animal shelters, because no one in the family can take care of them and no provisions have been made for their care. You can also establish a pet trust, so money for their care is provided.

Do it early and often. Creating your will is just the first step. They need to be updated, as your circumstances and laws change. Many people update wills after a trigger event, such as marriage, birth, death or divorce.  However, laws and assets change and your will needs to be updated, especially after major tax law changes.

The will is just the beginning of an estate plan. There are several basic documents that will protect you while you are alive and after you have passed. They include the durable financial power of attorney, which determines who can make financial decisions on your behalf, if you are ill and cannot do so.

You also want an advance healthcare directive, which includes a healthcare power of attorney. That’s a person who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you be unable. You also want to have a living will to explain what you want, with regards to staying alive through artificial means.

Finally, accounts where you have named a beneficiary should be reviewed periodically. The beneficiary designations appear in accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, bank and investment accounts, to name a few. The designation supersedes anything in your will, so make sure you know what these are and update them as life changes.

Reference: Country Living (Aug. 17, 2018) “Everything Baby Boomers Need to Know About Estate Planning”

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