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What are the core elements of a comprehensive estate plan?

Chances are pretty good that you've been told on more than one occasion by a friend or family member that you need to have an estate plan in place. Chances are also pretty good that you already know that having an estate plan in place can help ensure that your wishes are honored and that it could provide your family with much-needed clarity in the event of your incapacity.

Despite knowing this much, there may be one issue on which you are not entirely clear: the elements that constitute a comprehensive estate plan.

As with many legal matters, there is no single answer as to what constitutes a comprehensive estate plan given that individual circumstances can vary so greatly.

Nevertheless, experts have identified a few key documents that, at a minimum, can form the foundation of a solid estate plan:   

  • A living trust: A living trust enables a person to dictate exactly how they want their assets distributed upon their demise. While the same feat can be accomplished via a simple will, a living trust provides greater flexibility. Furthermore, it negates the need for probate, ensuring privacy, and saving both time and money.
  • Power of attorney: A power of attorney enables you to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity. This means someone you know and trust will make sure your mortgage is paid, account remains balanced and checks are deposited.
  • Advance healthcare directive: An advance healthcare directive enables you to communicate your exact wishes concerning the medical care you do and don't want to receive in the event of your incapacity, and/or appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf.
  • HIPPA release form: A HIPPA release form will enable those granted decision-making authority regarding your healthcare or finances with the ability to access your medical records, something that will prove necessary when dealing with the insurance company.     

If you have questions regarding any of the aforementioned legal instruments or would like to learn more about estate planning, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

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