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How to get started with your estate planning

Many people believe that planning for their end of life only requires a will. However, a will is only part of what goes into an estate plan. An estate plan is something you will set-up now and continually change or adjust for the rest of your life as your circumstances changes.

There is no reason to wait to start your estate planning. Since the future is not guaranteed, the time to work on your estate plan is right now. It may not be easy to think of a time when you are not around, but you should think of estate planning as another way to take care of your family.

Now that you understand the importance of having an estate plan, here is an overview of what you should do prior to working on your plan.

Get your financial information organized - Write down all your assets and debts. Gather every document that makes up your financial worth. This will include real estate, vehicles, boats, bank accounts, investments, pensions, life insurance policies, credit card statements and even items such as artwork and jewelry. Do not leave anything out, the work you do with an estate planning attorney will depend on having your full financial background accounted for.

Make a list of beneficiaries - This will include all members of your family and close friends, such as your spouse, children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and close friends. In your list, include as much information you can about them, including full name, addresses and how they relate to you. You can also include any entities you may also want to give to, such as charitable organizations or non-profits.

Who will be your executor? - This will be the person who will have legal responsibility of your financial obligations after you pass. Many times, people will name a spouse or an oldest child, but the most important thing is to name someone you trust.

Health care decisions - If you happen to become incapacitated for any reason and are unable to make health care decisions, you will need explicit instructions on how you want your health care handled. This can include your wishes for nursing homes, home care, assisted living facilities and even medications.

These items are just the beginning, but it will start your estate plan rolling. An estate plan expert will be able to guide you through all the details to make sure you don't miss a thing. Completing your estate plan can be daunting, but there is good reason for it, you are looking after your family. One other benefit of working on your estate plan, it will give you peace of mind.

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