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By definition, estate planning is a process designed to help you manage and preserve your assets while you are alive, and to conserve and control their distribution after your death according to your goals and objectives. But what estate planning means to you specifically depends on who you are. Your age, health, wealth, lifestyle, life stage, goals, and many other factors determine your particular estate planning needs. For example, you may have a small estate and may be concerned only that certain people receive particular things. A simple will is probably all you'll need. Or, you may have a large estate, and minimizing any potential estate tax impact is your foremost goal. Here, you'll need to use more sophisticated techniques in your estate plan, such as a trust. We will work closely with your tax professional and attorney during this process as your team leader, coordinating the efforts of everyone involved to ensure the goals you are looking to acheive are met.
Below is a list of the 4 key components that make up the core of an estate plan that everyone should consider:
A Will - A will is a legally enforceable document detailing how you wish to distribute your property after your death. The major benefits of creating a will are 1. Distributing property according to your wishes, 2. Naming an executor/executrix to settle your estate, 3. Name a guardian for your minor children, and 4. It can create a trust upon your death. If you do not have a Will, the distribution of your property and/or guardianship of your children is left up to the government or the state. A will helps ensure that your wishes are carried out after you have passed.
A Health Care Proxy - Allows you to appoint a representative to make medical decisions for you. You decide how much power your representative will have.
Living Will – A living will allow you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, even if you will die as a result of the choice. However, in most states, living wills take effect only under certain circumstances, such as terminal injury or illness. Generally, one can be used only to decline medical treatment that "serves only to postpone the moment of death." Even in states that do not allow living wills, you might want to have one anyway to serve as evidence of your wishes.
Durable Power of Attorney - A durable power of attorney (DPOA) allows you to authorize someone else to act on your behalf financially and determine what they have the power to do. There are two types of DPOAs: an immediate DPOA, which is effective immediately, and a springing DPOA, which is not effective until you have become incapacitated. A DPOA should be fairly simple and inexpensive to implement. It also ends at your death. A springing DPOA is not permitted in some states, so you'll want to check with an attorney.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Total Wealth Planning and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.