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3 common questions about estate planning

When it comes to estate planning, people have a lot of questions and sometimes even avoid the topic altogether. However, avoiding estate planning is not a wise idea because procrastination can lead to the lack of a plan when you truly need it.

Getting answers to your questions about planning for asset distribution after your death and advance directives that may become necessary in the event of incapacitation is essential. Although it is a topic that many people try to avoid, tackling it can bring peace of mind and reduced conflict to your entire family.

1. Is estate planning only for wealthy people?

A common myth about estate planning is that it is only for people with a lot of assets. The truth is that some of the people who benefit most from a comprehensive estate plan are those without significant wealth, because an estate plan helps them to preserve and protect what they do have and own. Putting an estate plan into place means that you can specify how you want those assets distributed after your death, regardless of how much they are worth.

2. What is probate?

Probate is a term that people often talk about when estate planning comes up. Probate is a process that the court system uses to divide a person's assets after she or he dies in situations that the deceased had a will and in situations without a will. Many people see a comprehensive estate plan as a way to avoid probate. This is not necessarily true because it depends on the specific instruments you use in your estate planning, whether you draft a will or set up a trust. Only a qualified estate planning attorney can help you determine what is right for your situation.

3. What do I need in addition to a will?

As the term implies, an estate plan is a comprehensive plan that includes not only a will, but also other elements such as advance directives and power of attorney. If you suffer an illness that renders you incapable of making decisions on your own behalf, a health care power of attorney that is already in place ensures that the person you entrust carries out your wishes. The same applies to financial power of attorney. Advance planning means that you look at the entire picture regarding your future and assets not only after death, but also in unforeseen circumstances.

Creating a comprehensive estate plan can be one of the best things you can do in terms of ensuring a conflict-free procedure for asset division following your death. Giving your family this protection can help ensure a smooth transition for your assets when you are no longer there to guide the process.

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