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Estate planning for different life phases

Some New York residents may think of an estate plan as something that only wealthy people need. However, an estate plan is important for adults at every stage of their lives. An estate plan should also be reviewed and revised throughout a person's life as changes in assets and family make changes necessary as well.

For example, a young person with no dependents may primarily need an estate plan to appoint someone, often a parent, to make medical decisions if the person becomes incapacitated. Once a person is no longer a minor, the parents may not automatically have this right. A power of attorney can also appoint someone to make financial decisions.

Revising a will when the testator gets married may establish separate assets and protect assets that should remain in the family. It can also protect children from a previous marriage. A will can name a guardian for minor children if the parents are killed. As people get older, they will have more assets to distribute and might want to consider a living trust. This document is revocable during a person's lifetime. However, even if a person has a trust, a so-called "pour over" will is still necessary to move assets not specifically named in the trust into it after the owner's death.

An estate plan may have other elements as well. For example, a living will can specify the type of end-of-life care a person wishes to receive. Trusts may be used in a variety of different ways to manage how assets are distributed, donate to charity, care for a special needs relative and do a number of other things. People may put off creating one because it can involve difficult topics, but a carefully considered estate plan can take a burden off of loved ones.

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