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Some things everyone should know about estate planning

Many people throughout the country avoid estate planning because they believe the process is too complicated or, perhaps, because they don't think they own enough assets to even need to have an estate plan in place. However, having a comprehensive estate plan in place is not just for the wealthy. Almost anyone can benefit from having an estate plan in place. So, what are some basics about estate planning?

First, it is important to understand what an estate is. For most people, their estate will consist of all of the assets they own, which can include: funds in bank or investment accounts; real estate; vehicles; jewelry; and even artwork - basically, anything of value. When a person dies, these valuable possessions are their estate, and an estate plan will delineate how the estate's assets will be distributed.

However, an estate plan can address more than just what happens to your assets after your death. An estate plan can, for example, be very important for individuals and couples who have minor children. In the estate plan, a chosen guardian for the minor children can be named and a financial setup can be established so that the minor children are the primary beneficiaries of the estate and the funds and assets therein.

An estate plan can also include power of attorney documents, which are only called upon when needed. For the most part, people draft power of attorney documents to empower another person to make medical or financial decisions on their behalf if they are incapacitated and are unable to do so themselves.

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