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The basics of estate planning

Many Florida residents put off estate planning because the prospect of drafting wills, trusts and powers of attorney seems daunting. The process may be less confusing if it is approached with beneficiaries rather than assets in mind. People generally want to know that their loved ones will be taken care of if something should happen to them, and the best way to go into estate planning could be with this goal in mind.

A straightforward first step is ensuring that the beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement accounts still reflect the wishes of the owner. This can be particularly important after a divorce because these designations supersede the provisions of a will. A will may be all that is required for a rudimentary estate plan as it can establish who will take care of children as well as how assets will be distributed if the testator passes away. Wills should also be revisited and revised following major life events.

Living wills are estate planning tools that allow individuals to make clear what kind of medical treatment they wish to receive or not receive should they become incapacitated, and health care proxies name an individual authorized to make health care decisions. Powers of attorney do the same thing for financial decisions. When combined with a will, these directives can provide a great deal of peace of mind.

Attorneys with experience in this area may suggest going further by incorporating trusts into an estate plan. Trusts provide individuals with far more control over the distribution of their assets and may allow estates to be administered without going through the probate process. Trusts can protect assets from creditors, and they may also be used to prevent young people or loved ones who have struggled with addiction from receiving large lump sum bequests.

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