Estate planning considerations for the new year

Many people in Georgia start off a new year with a personal to-do list that often includes resolutions to get or stay in shape and kick bad habits. While these are certainly worthwhile goals, a commonly overlooked item on such lists is estate planning. Some individuals may not find this topic to be all that pleasant. However, being proactive with making estate-related plans may make life easier for heirs and other loved ones while also providing much-appreciated peace of mind.

The one basic estate planning document that's typically recommended for individuals eighteen and older is a will. In addition to determining asset distribution, this document can also be used to name designated guardians for children. A power of attorney allows a person to name a trusted individual to make financial decisions on their behalf should they be unable to do so. A health care power of attorney is a similar document that pertains to medical decisions. Preferences for care can be further clarified with an executed health care proxy.

Individuals wishing to make life easier for surviving family members may benefit from life insurance, which can provide funds fairly quickly for final expenses, estate taxes, and other needs of this nature. It's also advised that estate planning include naming and updating beneficiaries and secondary beneficiaries on retirement, insurance, investment, and financial accounts. Another approach to making estate plans involves grown children encouraging older parents to explore their options with trusts, pre-determine burial preferences, and consider long-term disability insurance to cover future home care or nursing home expenses.

An estate planning attorney may also suggest completing and periodically updating an inventory of all available assets. This step may require individuals to clear up issues with rights of ownership, especially if "assets" include intellectual property or businesses also managed by partners or co-owners Also, a lawyer might recommend a consultation with a financial planner if there are significant assets involved. An attorney may also be able to set up guidelines for dealing with more unique assets, such as digital content stored online or family pets.

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