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Estate planning is essential for everyone, not just the rich

For many people in Texas and around the nation, the term "estate planning" conjures up visions of stately mansions and luxurious lifestyles. However, even though most people don't think of their property and possessions as being a part of their estate, they still need to consider what will happen if they are no longer able to handle the decisions of daily life.

Most people are familiar with the concept of writing a will to specify how they want their possessions to be distributed after their death. There are several other legal arrangements available that can also be an essential part of a solid estate plan. Creating a living trust can be an effective strategy to protect designated assets from going through probate and to reduce the amount of estate taxes due. Creating a durable power of attorney allows individuals to decide to whom they want to entrust their financial and health-related decisions in the event they become unable to make their own decisions.

Another important item to pay attention to is the beneficiary designations on things like life insurance, pension plans or bank accounts. It is important to keep the beneficiaries updated to reflect changing life circumstances such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child because these arrangements are given more legal weight if an individual becomes incapacitated than other documents, including wills.

Individuals who want to ensure that their assets are handled in a professional way if they become unable to make decisions for themselves may need professional help to create an estate plan that is right for their unique circumstance. Attorneys working in the area of elder law may be able to provide their clients with legal guidance as they make crucial decisions about their future.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning For The Rest Of Us", Liz Davidson, September 12, 2013

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