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What are the elements of a comprehensive estate plan?

The unfortunate reality is that excuses abound when it comes to executing an estate plan. Indeed, statistics show that over 50 percent of the population here in the U.S. has not taken a single step in this regard, with people frequently citing the same excuses such as their age, their lack of assets, or their lack of time.

The simple truth, however, is that these types of excuses are often nothing more than a cover for the fact that people are uncomfortable with the notion of planning for their own passing. While this is certainly understandable, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that an estate plan can actually grant much-needed peace of mind, as you will know that the necessary documents are in place and things will transpire according to your exact wishes.

As to the concerns that people are too young or don't have sufficient assets, experts indicate that anybody of legal age with some assets to their name can benefit from comprehensive estate planning. The good news, however, is that they also say that the execution of three documents can typically accomplish this.

  • A medical power of attorney: This document enables a person to set forth their specific requirements/demands concerning medical care, as well as appoint a person to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity.
  • A financial power of attorney: This document enables a person to appoint a person to manage their finances in the event of their incapacity.
  • A simple will: At a minimum, this document can help ensure that the person, not the state, dictates how their assets are going to be divided. It should be noted, however, that a simple will might not be the best fit for everyone.

While these three documents recommended by experts are indeed a vital part of any comprehensive estate plan, it's nevertheless important to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional -- as opposed to just using a software package -- as they can examine your unique circumstances and help ensure that you have everything truly covered.

Source: The Tampa Bay Times, "Everyone -- rich or poor -- should have an estate plan," July 16, 2014

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