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Even those of modest means need estate planning

It seems like every death of a celebrity these days winds up in a plethora of unanswered inheritance intentions and probate litigation as heirs fight over what they feel is rightfully theirs. Sometimes, a person in Davie thinks this will never happen to them, as they have only a modest estate. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Estate planning is for anyone, of any means, who has some opinion about how their final affairs should be handled.

It can be a mistake to assume that, even without an estate plan, your assets will simply be passed on to your surviving spouse, or, in absence of a spouse, to your children. However, if you don't have an estate plan, this may not automatically happen. In the absence of a will, under state intestacy laws, sometimes one's assets will pass to siblings or other relatives, even if that is not agreeable to you.

To avoid these consequences, a few estate planning documents should be in place. The most basic one is a will. A will can clarify what assets are to move onto future generations, per your specific instructions.

In addition, a person might want to consider a trust. A trust allows a person to control their assets even after they have passed away by imposing restrictions on how and when a beneficiary will receive trust assets. For example, a beneficiary might receive trust assets periodically, such as at age 25, age 35 and so on. This way, hopefully, the beneficiary will not squander trust assets.

Finally, it is essential for any person, no matter what their means, to designate someone as their power of attorney. This way, should a person become so ill that they cannot make decisions on their own, there is a trusted person in place to legally make these decisions for them. A living will works in conjunction with a power of attorney and can dictate what health care or life-saving procedures you want at the end of your life, which could relieve a lot of stress on the part of your loved ones.

A well-rounded estate plan can benefit even those of modest means. It's not just about passing down your assets -- it is about end-of-life care as well. Starting an estate plan from ground zero can be intimidating. Fortunately, attorneys are available to help their clients establish an estate plan that is legally sound and that meets their needs.

Source:, "Estate Planning Is Not Just For The Ultra-Rich Anymore," Ernie Burns, Aug. 3, 2017

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