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Wealth Plans Checklist Series: Basic Estate Plan

Real estate brokers pointed to signing agreement documents.

Purpose

In general, the purpose of having an estate plan is to give written directions providing for how your affairs should be managed in the event of your death or incapacitation.  All basic estate plans should include the following documents:  will, health care directive (or living will), and financial power of attorney.  Under your will, you get to decide who gets your property when you die and who is given control over the legal process of transferring title of those assets according to your wishes.  If you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, the health care directive names your agent for making medical decisions on your behalf, and the financial power of attorney names your agent for managing your finances on your behalf.

An estate plan may also include a revocable trust, which acts as the substitute for your will becoming the primary instrument for transferring property at death to your designated beneficiaries.  The primary advantages of a revocable trust is to avoid a costly and lengthy probate procedure, with an added benefit of being a private document not accessible to the public.  Despite having a trust, a will is still necessary to start the probate process, though it now serves more like an administrative document since your assets will pass automatically at death pursuant to your trust (assuming you transferred legal ownership of your assets into the trust prior to your death).[1]


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