New Yorkers who have a well-crafted estate plan are taking necessary steps to prepare for the future. While this is a relatively obvious need, many ignore it. Surprisingly, a significant portion of those who fail to create even a basic estate plan are people 55 and older. Having strategies for the long-term is critical and legal help is vital to accomplish this.

A study by Age Wave and Merrill Lynch found that around 45 percent of people 55 and above have not made a will. The study examined 3,000 adults and gauged how people 55 and older felt about planning for the end of their lives. Although this can be a difficult issue to think about, nine out of 10 stated they were willing to talk about it.

A will is a critical part of an estate plan. When thinking about the words “estate plan,” people should know that it encompasses items they own, real estate and financial accounts. A will can detail how the person wants their property handled and who should get what. It can also be used to appoint guardians for minor children. Another important decision that can be included is choosing an executor. This is someone who will make certain the will is adhered to and will address the paying of outstanding bills, selling properties that must be sold and more.

Another important estate planning document is a health-care directive – or a living will – to detail the person’s desires if they become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney will let an agent oversee the finances if the person is incapable of doing so. Finally, account beneficiaries for retirement accounts and life insurance are frequently forgotten after an estate plan is created. Beneficiaries must be listed for retirement accounts, and, if a former spouse is the beneficiary, this can be problematic.

The failure to create an estate plan is a mistake that too many people make, which results in long-term disputes and battles among family members and other heirs. To avoid this, it is wise to contact an experienced estate planning attorney to create the necessary documents based on individual needs.