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A Simple Guide to Estate Planning

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A Simple Guide to Estate Planning

Looking to provide for your family and loved ones after you die?

Here is a simple guide to estate planning to get you started.

A will and powers of attorney for legal and healthcare decisions are key components of an estate plan, as is a living will.

A trust is another important estate planning option to consider, especially if you are interested in keeping your financial affairs and personal wishes private.


A valid and up-to-date will allows you to make your final wishes known to family and friends and it defines how you wish your assets to be distributed after you die.  A will also defines how any debt, taxes and other expenses are to be paid upon your death. In a will, you name an executor to file any tax forms and manage the distribution of your estate. And if you have children, you may name a guardian to take care of your children.

Living Wills

With a living will, you specify what types of medical treatment you wish or do not wish to receive if you are ever unable to make medical decisions on your own.

Powers of Attorney

With power of attorney, you name a trusted friend or family member to make financial decisions for you in case you should become incapacitated and are unable to manage your own financial affairs. And with healthcare power of attorney, you name someone that you trust to make health and medical decisions for you. By naming a healthcare power of attorney, a trusted friend or family member will be able to make medical decisions for you in any instances not covered in your living will.


With a trust, you transfer your assets to the trust and you specify in writing how you wish your assets to be distributed after you die. Because a trust doesn’t become part of the public record, you can keep your financial affairs private.

With a revocable trust, you can amend the terms of the trust at any time. With an irrevocable trust, the trust cannot be altered once it’s been executed. So once you establish an irrevocable trust, you won’t be able to change any of its terms.

Consult an attorney and a financial planner in your state as you consider your estate planning options. State laws vary widely when it comes to estate planning issues. And it is important to consult local experts when determining the best course of action for you and your family.

Other Estate Planning Tips to Think About

Naming beneficiaries for your bank and investment accounts is one way to speed the distribution of your assets after you die. And if you are carrying big debts, choosing a life insurance policy with a sufficient payout for your beneficiaries can ease your worries about leaving a spouse with a burdensome debt to pay.

Once you’ve prepared your estate, keep the documents in a safe place and give copies of the documents to a trusted friend or family member.

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  • dsundiego

    I have a fairly simple (I think) estate. My only daughter is beneficiary for all of my bank accounts, insurance, and anything else that can have a beneficiary. The only sticking point is with my studio condo. How do I arrange things so that she can either decide to keep it and continue to pay the existing $125,000 mortgage, or sell it and keep the proceeds? I have nothing else in place at this time.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      We’ve sent you an email. We are hoping to answer this in an article in the not-too-distant future.

      • dsundiego

        Thank you. I look forward to the article.

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