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What are the essential parts of a comprehensive estate plan?

Most Americans don’t like to think about death, especially their own. It’s one reason why so many put off estate planning, some well into their retirement years. However, estate planning is the best way to ensure you pass your assets on to your children, family members or your favorite charitable cause.

When you decide to get an estate plan in place, though, what exactly should you complete? What are the essential parts of a comprehensive estate plan?

Estate planning goes beyond completing a will, in which you detail who will receive what assets and name a guardian for your child if necessary.

Here are three other essential estate planning documents you should have as part of a comprehensive estate plan:

1. A letter of instruction.

You don’t need the help of an estate planning attorney to complete this letter. It should be a guide for your family members, listing all of your important banking and investment accounts, your life insurance policy information and how to access these accounts. You also should provide contact information for your financial advisor, estate planning attorney and insurance representative.

2. A health care power of attorney and a living will.

You want to detail your wishes for your medical care if you become incapacitated. Your living will can lay out if you want to stay on life support if your prospects for recovery are slim or if you don’t want resuscitation after a late-in-life stroke or heart attack.

3. A power of attorney.

With a power of attorney document, you can designate someone to handle your financial matters on your behalf. So, if you develop dementia or Alzheimer’s as you age, or have a severe brain injury in an accident, you can have someone you trust to make decisions about how to handle your assets.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ease any fears you have about completing a comprehensive estate plan. Estate planning attorneys can walk you through drafting all the essential documents, asking questions to ensure you’re planning well for your particular situation.

Once you’ve completed a comprehensive estate plan, then you can take comfort in knowing you’ve made things easier for your family when they need to use those documents.

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