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The most important estate planning documents

Whether a New York resident is single and childless or on a third marriage with multiple children from previous relationships, having an estate plan is important. While many documents may be involved in an estate plan, there are three that are essential to everyone.

The first is a will. Many people have what are called non-probate assets, such as an IRA or a life insurance plan, that are passed down using beneficiary designations or other methods. These funds can be easily transferred via designations; however, a will is for other assets. Without a will, the state must make the distribution decisions.

The other two documents will come in handy while the estate owner is still alive. A living will can help families make difficult decisions about how to deal with end-of-life care. This document expresses a person's wishes about such treatments as a feeding tube. Similarly, a power of attorney appoints someone to take over financial and legal matters if a person is incapacitated. Without this, mortgages and other bills may go unpaid until a family member gets permission in court to take over this duty.

There are also other types of estate planning documents people may want to consider. For example, an estate owner may want a power of attorney who can appoint someone to make medical decisions for them. In addition, some people find trusts to be a useful part of an estate plan. A trust can manage how distributions are made to an irresponsible heir or protect assets for a loved one who has special needs. Those who have questions about trusts and other estate planning documents may want to reach out to a lawyer for advice.

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