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Basic estate planning documents that can bring peace of mind

Many Floridians know that the only certainty in life is uncertainty. But when it comes to estate planning, uncertainty can be a recipe for disaster. Failing to provide specific instructions for the distribution of one's assets after death means the state will decide how to distribute them. But with a little effort, a person can make sure their assets go to the people or organizations they want them to. So here is a quick breakdown of four basic documents that should be a part of everyone's estate plan.

A will or a living trust should be the cornerstone of every estate planning procedure. A will gives specific instructions on how to distribute one's assets after death. A will can also be used to restrict an inheritance and prevent it from being accessed by a beneficiary's creditors. It can also specify who the testator wants to care for any minor children. A trust can serve the same functions, and also help the grantor avoid probate and provide for asset management during the grantor's lifetime and after death.

A durable power of attorney is another basic estate planning document that everyone should have. It allows the testator to choose a trusted individual, known as the attorney in fact, to take care of their financial affairs if they become incapacitated. And while it is illegal for anyone who holds a durable power of attorney to put their needs before the testator's, it is critical to choose as attorney in fact a person the testator trusts implicitly.

A variation of the durable power of attorney is the healthcare power of attorney. This document appoints another person to make healthcare decisions for the testator if the testator can no longer do so.

A medical power of attorney should ideally be accompanied by a living will. This document sets out the testator's medical and end of life instructions. With a living will a testator can inform family members and doctors exactly what type of medical treatments and life saving methods the testator desires.

Source: www. HuffingtonPost.com, "4 estate planning documents everyone needs", Accessed May 19, 2015

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