Estate planning 101: what you need to know

Thinking about what you want to happen at the end of your life or after you are gone is probably something you would rather avoid. It can make you and your loved ones feel uneasy, and you might just prefer to ignore the whole situation.

However, avoiding or ignoring it will not make the situation go away. In fact, never addressing the subject could just make matters worse for you and the loved ones who will be left to make decisions they'd rather not make and cope with questions that are left unanswered. While it can be a challenge, creating an estate plan can be one of the most helpful things you do for yourself and your family.

If you are still a little hesitant, it might help to approach estate planning as simply that: planning. We make plans all the time. While it can certainly be more difficult to discuss end-of-life plans, looking at it as something more like retirement planning or buying insurance can make it more approachable and less fear-inducing.

It can also be helpful to know the basic documents you'll need as part of your plan. While every plan is different, essentially, you will want to make sure your financial, medical and personal wishes are established and protected. To do this, you should have a:

  • Will
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Designated health care proxy
  • Living will

Finally, you should understand that you do not need to tackle all this on your own. While this shouldn't be a process to be scared of, it can be intimidating. Thankfully, there are estate planning attorneys who can guide you through these steps and help you assess your options to create a plan that is comprehensive, clear and legally enforceable.

Source:, "What is Estate Planning?" accessed on April 12, 2016

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