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What goes in a complete estate plan?

A new year and a new decade may mean you are making plans for big changes in your life. These changes may go beyond the usual resolutions you make and break every year, such as losing weight, paying down debt or watching less TV. You are thinking of taking steps that will have a lasting impact for you and your family.

If you have put off making an estate plan, the end of 2019 may be the motivation you need to get started on this important journey. However, like many in Texas, you may have no idea where to start or know what you actually need in your estate plan. Having a general understanding of the critical documents in a complete plan is the first step.

Basic documents

Estate planning can be as simple as writing a will. However, a complete plan can do so much more than just designate who gets your belongings after you die. You may be surprised at how much you and your loved ones may benefit from a fully developed estate plan that includes the following:

  • A will that designates an executor of your estate, names the inheritors of your assets and appoints a guardian for your minor children
  • A trust that holds ownership of certain assets, which will then skip the probate process, saving your heirs time and money
  • The execution of a financial power of attorney, appointing who will manage your bills, investments and other financial and legal matters if you are unable to because of an accident or illness
  • A health care power of attorney, appointing who will speak for you regarding your medical care if you are unable to speak for yourself
  • An advance directive that outlines the kinds of medical treatment you desire and those measures you wish doctors to withhold in the event that you are unable to express your wishes

Having financial and medical powers of attorney in place can prevent your family from having to go to court to gain permission to act on your behalf. Financial institutions, hospitals and others must follow strict privacy laws, and a power of attorney can help avoid complications related to those laws.

While this is by no means a comprehensive examination of an estate plan, it provides an overview of some of the most important elements you can include in your plan. By speaking with an experienced attorney, you may learn of additional options that may be more appropriate for your unique circumstances.

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