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The basics of estate planning : part II

In this blog post, we'll continue to discuss those components that make up a comprehensive estate plan. In our last post we discussed how both a will and beneficiary designations can be used to pass along wealth and assets to loved ones and intended parties. In this post, we'll discuss estate planning documents that relate to one's health care and end of life decisions.

Many people wrongly assume that estate planning only relates to those matters which must be attended to upon an individual’s death. In reality, there are a number of estate planning documents that can be used to manage and make decisions related to an individual’s health and overall wellbeing.

A living will is a legal document that allows an individual to express his or her wishes with regard to what types of medical intervention should or should not be taken if a medical emergency presents. For example, if life support was necessary, an individual can decide whether or not such measures should be taken. In order to ensure those wishes expressed in a living will are carried out, an individual should also name a health care proxy who ensures directives laid out in a living will are followed.

Even in cases where an individual's life isn't at stake, he or she may develop dementia or otherwise become incapacitated and unable to tend to or manage financial matters. For these reasons, it's wise to name a trusted individual to act as a durable power of attorney. Because a DPA has access to assets and sensitive financial information, an individual should take care to appoint a trusted relative, friend or even a professional who has a fiduciary duty to act in a client's best interest.

In our next blog post we'll continue our discussion of those components that make up a comprehensive estate plan.

Source: Consumer Reports, "How to create a bulletproof estate plan: We've broken down this seemingly daunting task into 7 steps," Nov. 2013

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