Important documents in an estate plan

A will is one of several documents that can be useful as part of an estate plan. If you die without an estate plan in Arizona, the state will decide what happens to your assets. If you have minor children, the state may also determine who their guardians will be.

Wills generally name an executor or personal representative. This is the person who is responsible for seeing the estate through probate, filing taxes, distributing assets to beneficiaries and closing the estate among other tasks. The executor should be someone who is responsible, organized and trustworthy.

Separate from the will is the living will or health care directive, which outlines your end-of-life care wishes. A power of attorney can be created to appoint someone to make these medical decisions. The same type of document can also appoint someone to take over finances if you are unable to do so. Life insurance and retirement accounts are two of the main assets that pass by beneficiary designation instead of by will.

Some people may also want to consider a trust, particularly if they have beneficiaries who are young or likely to be irresponsible with any money inherited. A trust can specify the terms for receiving distributions or put that power in the hands of the trustee.

Once the estate plan is in place, it is important that you do not simply set it aside and forget about it. Over the years, estate plans may need updating as your family changes through such events as births, deaths, marriages and divorce. Even if these things stay the same, laws may change that can affect your estate planning strategy. Reviewing the plan every few years with an attorney may help ensure that it remains up to date.

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