How to Create a Comprehensive Estate Plan

The future is a place of uncertainty, of the unknown. People don’t like to dwell on things they have no control over. They don’t like to make arrangements for their mortality; or for that time down the road when they may no longer be able to articulate their choices and desires. However, it is this very uncertainty which everyone needs to address and think about, to make sure that those who will make decisions for you know your thoughts and desires, and will make them in accordance with your wishes. There are three elements of a prudent plan for the future: Living Will, Durable Power Of Attorney and Last Will & Testament.

1. Living Will

A Living Will is a document that sets out what your wishes and desires are regarding your future health care. What steps do you want taken on your behalf? Should doctors take any and every possible step, or do you want certain limits placed on what they will do? Just as important, have you thought about whom you will trust to make decisions for you if you cannot? Do they know your thoughts and desires? Select a trusted relative or friend to discuss these critical issues with now, while you both can laugh about it.

2. Durable Power Of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is a “living will” for your financial health. In the event that you are unable or otherwise cannot make decisions about your finances, you need to be able to designate someone who can act in your place, who will make the decisions for you that you would have made for yourself. Again, find a trusted relative or friend who is willing to accept this responsibility. Discuss with them what your plans are. Let them know where they can find your financial and other important papers. This may be the same person who is set out in your living will, or it may be a different person.

3. Last Will And Testament?

This is the third leg of your plan for the future. When the time comes, how do you want your assets distributed? This includes real estate and property, money, investments and other assets, and your personal possessions, both valuable and sentimental. Who do you trust to distribute these items in accordance with your wishes? What are your wishes? If you don’t make a plan, the State of New Jersey will dictate who gets what. After working a lifetime for yourself, don’t let the legislators you never met determine who gets what.

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