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One size does not fit all when it comes to estate planning

When Florida residents have an important goal they set out to accomplish, it often takes more than one step to accomplish the goal. Often times, however, individuals might not even know about these other steps, which is frequently the case when people encounter the legal system.

A prime example of this is the process of drafting estate planning documents. When individuals think of estate planning, they typically envision a simple will that directs who will receive their assets upon death. While a will is certainly an important document to have in place, there are many other estate planning documents that should be addressed in order to avoid family disputes and protect a person's best interests.

For instance, individuals should have a durable power of attorney in place, which authorizes another individual to act on their behalf in case they become physically or mentally unable to do so. The person's power of attorney can handle important financial matters, including paying bills, filing taxes and managing investments.

Proper estate planning extends beyond financial matters, however, as many individuals also choose to execute advanced medical directives that address their health care needs. The advance medical directive enables a person to specify the medical treatments they desire, or do not desire, in the event the person cannot express his or her wishes. For example, a person can specify whether they want to prolong their life using artificial means, which is a very personal decision that is best made by the individual subject to the care.

Individuals may also choose to create other estate planning documents as they see fit. For some, a living trust is advantageous because it allows the person's assets to avoid probate, which may be expensive and time consuming. Probate can also interfere with the management of the person's assets, costing more time and money.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all estate plan. The type of documents that should be drafted, as well as the specific provisions of those documents, will depend on the circumstances of each person.

Source: Forbes, "5 documents you need to avoid costly estate planning errors," Peter Lazaroff, Oct. 16, 2016

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