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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

Creating a comprehensive estate plan may be easier than you think

Gregory A. Lang

With tax season closing in on its final few weeks, there's a good chance you are planning to sit down with your computer and folder of important documents to prepare your tax return over the coming weeks.

While you may understandably not be looking forward to doing this, there is no question that doing your taxes often puts you in an analytical and objective frame of mind concerning the current state of your finances.

Given this reality, it should come as no surprise then that this may also be a good time to consider the possibility of creating an estate plan. While you may be tempted to automatically dismiss this notion, consider that doing so allows you to achieve such vital tasks as ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your exact wishes and, more importantly, appointing guardians for your children.

If this now sounds like something you would be interested in doing but are still wary of the amount of work it might entail, experts urge that the process of drafting a simple will and some necessary accompanying documents is actually relatively simple.

First, they advise that you create a master list outlining any and all assets that you currently own, including everything from real estate, business interests and investments to retirement accounts, insurance policies and items with sentimental value. From there, they recommend sitting down and thinking carefully about how you want to divide these assets.

Once this is done, they advise you to give equally careful consideration to other important issues, including naming the person you want to take care of your kids in the event of your demise, the person you want to manage your financial matters and medical issues in the event of your incapacity, and the person you want to execute your will (i.e., manage your estate) in the event of your demise.

Once armed with the answers to these questions, experts suggest making an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney who can draft the binding documents -- simple will, power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney etc. -- needed to ensure that your wishes become a legal reality. In fact, the attorney can also go back and update these documents in the event circumstances change.

It's understandable how a person might find the prospect of executing an estate plan daunting. However, as shown above, all that's often needed are carefully considered answers to some important questions and a meeting with a qualified legal professional; two simple steps that can grant much-needed peace of mind for years to come.

Source: CNN, "10 steps to painless estate planning," Martha White, March 3, 2014

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