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Estate Plan Fundamentals: Documents and Differences

Estate planning involves far more than a will to transfer assets after death, and is not just for the wealthy. If you have a family and property of any kind, you need an estate plan.

Every individual and every family has different needs when it comes to creating an estate plan. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to estate plans. So the plan that is the best possible estate plan for your cousin and his family is not going to be the same as it is for you - even though your circumstances may appear to be the same.

However, there are some basic documents that can be found in almost any estate plan worthy of the name. These documents are the backbone upon which any other estate planning documents are attached.

Recently, The Motley Fool explored this issue in an article titled "Estate Planning Checklist: How to Protect Your Future, Your Family and Your Property."

According to The Motley Fool these basic documents include:

  • A Living Will - Also known as an Advanced Healthcare Directive, this document allows you to direct what methods doctors will use to preserve your life if you are incapacitated and cannot tell them yourself.
  • General Durable Power of Attorney - This allows you to designate someone else to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.
  • Will - Even if a will is not the primary means by which your estate is to be distributed, you still need one for any leftover assets.
  • Beneficiary forms - If you have life insurance or retirement accounts, the forms designating beneficiaries are considered part of your estate plan.

These are the basic documents in almost every estate plan.

You should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about getting these fundamental legal documents in place and discuss other documents you might need in your own estate plan.

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