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What are the 5 elements every estate plan should have?

When it comes to creating an estate plan, most people are unsure of what they need and where to begin with the process. This is not unusual, as people typically do not deal with estate plans or the related documents on a regular basis.

To make estate planning a little easier and to give readers an idea of what they should have in a basic estate plan, we will look at five documents that everyone should consider having in their estate plan.

Durable power of attorney

Giving someone power of attorney grants that person the permission to make financial decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney ensures that permission remains intact if you become incapacitated.

Designation of health care surrogate

This document designates someone -- the surrogate -- to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so. As noted in Florida statutes, this must be a written document that is signed by you in front of two adult witnesses.

Living will

A living will lets others know your wishes not to be kept alive artificially when you have an illness or condition from which there is no hope of recovery. This document can be vital when you cannot express your wishes or give informed consent.

Designation of pre-need guardian

If you become mentally incapable of caring for yourself, you will want to name someone who can act as your "guardian." This person will most likely be appointed as your guardian to make personal and financial decisions for you in the event that you are declared incompetent.

Last Will and Testament

The details of your will depend largely on your individual circumstances. Generally speaking, though, a will specifies how and to whom you want your assets to be distributed after payment of your valid debts. The will operates on all your personal property and real estate.

These five documents can be the foundation for a solid estate plan that protects you, your family and your wishes should you become incapacitated or die. To complete these documents, or if you have specific questions regarding your individual needs, it would be wise to consult with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

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Peter J. Snyder, P.A.

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