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Facts about estate planning for the everyday person

Estate planning can be an overwhelming prospect, but you can take steps to make it easier. The very first thing you should look into creating is your will. This is the main document that your loved ones and courts will use when trying to determine where your assets go after you pass away. It's not the only document that has information on assets and who should benefit, but it can be a great starting point.

Another form you should complete alongside the will is a beneficiary designation. This form is usually provided to you at financial institutions. For example, if you open a banking account, the bank may ask if you have anyone who you would like to make your beneficiary, adding that person onto the account with the beneficiary designation. Your will can't make designations for these situations, so make sure you know where your 401(k) or other financial accounts are going by setting your beneficiary designations.

Powers of Attorney are also important to designate as soon as possible. The people who receive these powers may be in charge of your finances if you're incapacitated, for example, or they may be in charge of health care decisions. An advanced medical directive, or living will, should be adhered to by the person with medical Power of Attorney rights.

There are other factors that play into your estate plans, too, like deciding if you want to have a trust or to put aside a special savings for a loved family pet. Your attorney can help you fill out the right forms for all aspects of your estate plan.

Source: The Motley Fool, "How to Stop Estate Planning From Spooking You," Dan Caplinger, accessed Nov. 30, 2016

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