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Three estate planning tips to take before diving into summer

School's out for summer! Almost. But before you pull out those board shorts, grab that sunscreen and head to the beach, it is a good idea to take a few steps to make sure your house is in order - your financial house.

A big part of keeping your finances in order involves having a proper estate plan. Three steps you should take before you begin your summer travels to help better ensure your estate is in order include:

  • Put together a will. It is likely the most well known portion of an estate plan: the will. A will is the legal tool that outlines what assets should go where. Without a will, asset distribution is generally determined by state law. Putting together a will does not need to a complex and difficult process. Even a simple will can help reduce the risk of issues and better ensure that assets are distributed according to your wishes.
  • Double check your beneficiary designations. Beneficiary designations are included on a number of accounts. Things like life insurance policies and retirement accounts can make use of these designations. The process involves choosing a person as the beneficiary designation. This is generally done when the account is first established. This person is the one that will receive the entire account when the owner is no longer available. It is wise to review these designations to make sure the designations are as intended and update if needed.
  • Consider putting together powers of attorney documents. In addition to determining how assets should be handled, it is also wise to put together a plan for how your healthcare and finances will be handled in the event of incapacitation. Incapacitation can happen to anyone, especially while traveling. A car accident could result in temporary unconsciousness. In these cases, it is helpful to have someone that you trust to manage your affairs.

These are just a few steps that can be taken before beginning your summer adventures. Once you start the process, you can expand and adjust the plan to meet your needs.

It is also important to note that estate plans can do more than guide the distribution of assets; they can also be used to help take advantage of tax savings and shelter assets from creditors. Various legal tools can be used to accomplish these goals. An experienced estate planning attorney can discuss these and other options.

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