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What should be included in an effective estate plan

Having an effective estate plan, which includes the necessary estate planning documents, is important for the estate planner, their family members and the protection of the estate planner's assets. In addition, an effective and well-prepared estate plan is also useful to help minimize conflicts down the road between the estate planner's family members and can help keep the peace during an emotional and stressful time period.

There are several different types of documents that should be included in any estate plan. Estate planning documents include a will, living trust, advanced healthcare directive, a power of attorney and a HIPAA release form. A will sets forth how the estate planner wants their assets disposed of and who the estate planner wants their assets to go to. A will can be used in conjunction with a living trust but even if the estate planner utilizes a trust, and there are different types of trusts, they should still have a will. A requirement of a trust is that it is properly funded so it is important for estate planners to understand the details of a trust.

An advanced healthcare directive is important because it states the estate planner's healthcare wishes if they become unable to communicate those wishes for themselves. An advanced healthcare directive can also designate an individual the estate planner wishes to make healthcare decisions for them. A power of attorney serves to designate an individual the state planner trusts to make financial decisions for them if they are unable to do so for themselves. A completed HIPAA form will allow the designated individual access to the estate planner's health and medical records.

Estate planning can be a challenging topic for many individuals and their families to consider but that does not diminish its importance. With a few easy steps and completion of a few documents, an estate planner can have the confidence they have the security of an effective estate plan to protect them and their loved ones.

Source: Forbes, "5 Key Estate Planning Documents To Help Avoid Family Conflicts," Michael Chamberlain, Oct. 21, 2011

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