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Recommendations for a basic estate plan

In estate planning, things can get fairly complex depending on the amount and type of assets, the family situation, and estate planning goals. Still, there are some things that are considered fundamental to an estate plan. These things constitute what might be called a basic estate plan.

What would be included in a basic estate plan? Opinions may differ, but a basic estate plan should generally include the following steps: an inventory of current assets; defining one's estate planning goals; identifying family relationships that touch on estate planning; addressing long-term care, end of life and funeral matters; and developing a plan of action.

An estate plan will typically begin with an inventory of assets. This is important, as it will make clear what resources and burdens the estate carries with it, and will help in determining the type of estate planning that will work best. It is important to be clear about the state in which assets are held, as well as any preferences and relationships associated with the assets.

In terms of addressing estate planning goals, family relationships and one's decline, there are a number of questions that need to be answered. On a basic level, one needs to determine one's long-term life goals. That includes questions of retirement, how long one will work, and funding for long-term care. In the latter area, the possibility of nursing home living needs to be addressed, or at least the question of where one will live if one can no longer care for oneself.

Finally, an action plan must be developed to address these things. This will include selecting a power of attorney, drafting a living will, and establishing any trusts, care agreements, deed transfers, insurance, funeral arrangement, and various other matters.

This, of course, would only constitute a basic estate plan. There are many things that are possible in this area, but each person's plan will be uniquely suited to their needs.

Source: nj.com, "Your Legal Corner: Basic estate planning," Victoria M. Dalton, January 1, 2012.

Tags: estate planning, will

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