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Considerations for a strong estate plan

Estate plans are an excellent way for individuals to ensure the proper distribution of their assets after their passing, as well as denote their care in case they become incapacitated. Especially for individuals with large estates or complex assets, an estate plan may be essential to meet their final wishes.

Many people are familiar with wills and trusts; however, estate plans can contain more than those two documents. Here are a few considerations that may help in constructing a strong estate plan.

Wills

Some individuals may not be aware that there are different types of wills. There are basic wills that denote the allocation of assets to beneficiaries after an individual's passing, and there are living wills. Living wills focus on individuals' wishes concerning life-prolonging procedures if they go into a vegetative state or develop a terminal condition. Having both directives in place can help to relieve some of the stress of loved ones during a sad time.

Beneficiaries

Along with denoting beneficiaries of assets in a will, individuals should be sure to list beneficiaries on other award documents. Some common documentation to consider includes:

  • Insurance documents
  • Retirement accounts and IRAs
  • 401(k)s

A will does not serve as a blanket designation for all distributions, so will holders should ensure that the other documents denote the appropriate individuals as beneficiaries.

Power of attorney and surrogates

The power of attorney and health care surrogate designations determine who is responsible for fulfilling the wishes of the will holder. These designations may be the same person or separate individuals. Whichever determination an individual decides, it is important that he or she makes sure the designee meets the requirements according to California's Health Care Surrogate Act. Also, will holders should choose individuals that they trust and whom they know will respect their wishes.

These are some of the important elements of an estate plan, but you may add others as well. If you have specific concerns or questions, it may be beneficial to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

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