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The Basics of Estate Planning

Author: Frank L. Brunetti|May 7, 2014

A number of people make the assumption that they do not need to worry about estate planning, particularly if their estate will be under $5 million, the federal exemption.

The Basics of Estate Planning

A number of people make the assumption that they do not need to worry about estate planning, particularly if their estate will be under $5 million, the federal exemption.

However, while an estate below this level will not necessarily incur any federal taxes, there are a number of other benefits to ensuring that your affairs are in order.

Will

Even if you aren’t worried about how your estate will be taxed upon your death, you may still want to put your wishes in writing, detailing to whom your possessions will pass, rather than leave it up to the courts. In particular, a simple will is important if you have multiple children. A death in the family is invariably a stressful time, and a written will can go a long way toward avoiding arguments between family.

Living will

There are a number of adults who write out a will, but fail to write a living will, which contains a set of instructions to your physician in the event that you are alive but unable to give these instructions yourself. A living will specifies whether you want to receive certain life-sustaining procedures if you are in a persistent vegetative state or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Medical power of attorney

Similar to a living will, medical power of attorney specifies who may make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. This document may also be used to specify who will serve as your guardian if you are mentally incapacitated.

Financial power of attorney

This document designates a person who will manage the affairs of your estate and make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This person may manage assets titled in your name, including retirement plans

Many of these documents can specify a spouse, but it is important to name a backup as well, in the event that you are both incapacitated or otherwise unable to make important decisions. Through careful decision making with a financial planner, you can help your family to avoid significant difficulties down the road.

The Basics of Estate Planning

Author: Frank L. Brunetti

However, while an estate below this level will not necessarily incur any federal taxes, there are a number of other benefits to ensuring that your affairs are in order.

Will

Even if you aren’t worried about how your estate will be taxed upon your death, you may still want to put your wishes in writing, detailing to whom your possessions will pass, rather than leave it up to the courts. In particular, a simple will is important if you have multiple children. A death in the family is invariably a stressful time, and a written will can go a long way toward avoiding arguments between family.

Living will

There are a number of adults who write out a will, but fail to write a living will, which contains a set of instructions to your physician in the event that you are alive but unable to give these instructions yourself. A living will specifies whether you want to receive certain life-sustaining procedures if you are in a persistent vegetative state or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Medical power of attorney

Similar to a living will, medical power of attorney specifies who may make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. This document may also be used to specify who will serve as your guardian if you are mentally incapacitated.

Financial power of attorney

This document designates a person who will manage the affairs of your estate and make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This person may manage assets titled in your name, including retirement plans

Many of these documents can specify a spouse, but it is important to name a backup as well, in the event that you are both incapacitated or otherwise unable to make important decisions. Through careful decision making with a financial planner, you can help your family to avoid significant difficulties down the road.

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