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Wills alone are only part of good health care and estate planning

On behalf of Lang Law Office posted in Estate Administration & Probate on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Minnesota residents who want to ensure that their wishes control the administration of their estates need to beware of the notion that estate planning is only for the wealthy.

However, there are number of planning aspects that people from all economic backgrounds should consider. Unfortunately, many people only think as far as retirement when it comes to planning for the future. However, there may be long-term health decisions to make, asset distribution to manage and tax implications that must be explored as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Some of the fundamental legal papers that anyone seriously contemplating an estate plan should consider including in an estate plan are:

  1. A will. This document, properly prepared and legally enforceable, is the most basic estate protection instrument not just to avoid probate, but perhaps even more importantly to eliminate the potential for emotionally traumatic in-fighting and even litigation by surviving relatives battling over inheritances and division of assets.
  2. Powers of attorney. These instruments anticipate and head off the prospect of disputes if an individual for any reason becomes incapable of taking care of his or her own financial  decisions. Powers of attorney can be broad or narrow in scope, and an estate planning attorney can be a valuable resource in helping clients to decide just what is right for them.
  3. Health care directives. Similar in some ways to a power of attorney but more specific in focus, these enable people to establish specific instructions for how they want certain medical decisions to be made for them if they cannot make the decisions themselves. They can also appoint another person to make these decisions on a person’s behalf in the event of incapacitation.

Being proactive about estate planning and having the right legal documents established in advance will at least give anyone who thinks ahead the ability to avoid unnecessary and even unpleasant consequences for their loved ones. Speaking with an attorney may be beneficial to those wishing to begin estate planning.

Source: The Star-Ledger, “Your Money: Estate planning not just money lingo for the rich, it could save your long-term financial plan,” Karin Price Mueller, May 4, 2014