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Various aspects of creating a full, comprehensive estate plan

New Yorkers who do not take the necessary steps to craft a well-designed estate plan will inevitably regret it. While these documents are often considered to be essential only to those who have significant assets, everyone can use estate planning strategies to avoid family disputes and ensure that the person's property, savings and more will go where they want after they have passed. In most cases, this is not as complicated as it sounds, but there are certain aspects that should be considered beforehand.

With the changes to the tax laws, the impact on those who have major assets is not as hefty as it once was as the estate tax threshold has been increased to $11.18 million. This is one of the issues that people should know about. Making a will details how the assets will be distributed after death. There will be an executor named and this person will do as the will instructs them. For those who have minor children, a guardianship can be used for their care. People should remember that dying intestate - without a will - can take the decisions out of the person's hands and leave it to the state to determine how to distribute the assets.

For some, a living revocable trust is useful to avoid probate and transfer the person's assets into the trust so they can be distributed based on instructions from the person. Going over the list of beneficiaries is critical when people are named on pensions, insurance documents, financial accounts and more. If there was a divorce and it was not changed, then an ex-spouse has a legal right to receive the proceeds even if there is no longer a relationship.

A durable power of attorney can be useful when a person is worried about becoming incapacitated and will not be able to take care of their finances and other key areas of life. It names someone to deal with all these issues. An advance directive will list what the person wants and does not want if there is a need for life-saving medical care. For example, it can specify that a respirator will not be used. A healthcare proxy names someone to be the person's agent to oversee healthcare concerns if the person cannot.

With these and any other problem or concern that arises, legal assistance can provide guidance and advice to deal with them. It can also ensure that the documents are crafted just as the person wants and, if there are changes needed, they can be made. A law firm experienced in estate planning should be called for dealing with these issues.

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    --David and Ajia Cherry, Fairport
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