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5 essentials to every estate plan

A Florida expert in estate planning said people must take appropriate steps to make sure loved ones, such as parents or spouses, have proper care in case of emergency. To do so, they must draft an asset protection plan that will include five vital documents.

Those documents are:

•1. A durable power of attorney. That allows an assigned representative to take care of financial matters for the person affected. For instance, the person holding the power of attorney will have the ability to take care of everyday tasks, such as opening mail, filing insurance claims or making bank transactions.

•2. Will. The will is necessary for estate planning because it spells out what the person wants done with their property, and more importantly, who should raise a minor child, after their death. Without a will, a court will decide that, and the court might not make the decision the deceased would want. It is best not to use do-it-yourself forms for this important document.

•3. Designating a health-care surrogate. The surrogate makes medical decisions on behalf of a friend or loved one. The surrogate will be responsible for duties as crucial as end-of-life decisions.

•4. Living will. Having a living will gives people a chance to put on paper what actions people would like taken in the event of incapacitation. The living will sets the specifications under which life support can be removed, for example.

•5. A revocable living trust. Even the average person needs such a trust. While a will is enacted after death, the revocable trust can stipulate what decisions can be made while a person in incapacitated, then be revoked when the patient improves.

It is crucial to plan for the future and enact such documents with legal assistance while of sound mental and physical health. A person must put wishes in writing, and find a trusted friend and family member who will make the proper decisions in a medical emergency.

Source: South Florida Times, "Estate Planning For Caregivers: 5 Essential Legal Documents," Source:Phyllis Smith

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