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What to put in an estate plan

While a will is an essential part of an estate plan, it should not be the whole plan. An estate plan should lay out what a New York resident wants to happen after he or she dies, why it should happen and who will make sure that it does. By putting together a formal plan, it can make life easier for heirs and save them money when it comes time to settle the estate.

As part of the estate plan, there should be a letter of intent that spells out why an asset was left to a specific person. By doing so, a family member can't claim that a deceased parent truly intended for that person to inherit an item using vague reasoning. By eliminating family infighting, heirs won't spend the estate's resources on legal battles. In addition to a letter of intent, there should be a full listing of the deceased person's assets and liabilities.

Individuals should carefully consider who will be the executor of the estate. They should also consider who would be a guardian to minor children or adult children with special needs. Professionals may serve as an executor or trustee if a person doesn't have a friend or family member capable of overseeing an estate with valuable assets or large sums of money.

Creating an estate plan may reduce the odds of family disputes that could reduce the overall worth of an estate. An attorney may be able to help individuals create a plan that meets their needs both now and after they have passed on. If a person already has a will, trust or other estate plan documents, an attorney may be able to review them to increase the odds that they hold up to a legal challenge.

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