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Prenuptial agreement, living will important in estate planning

Fewer estates of any size are hit hard for taxes these days. Contrary to what some Florida residents may think, however, that doesn't mean that estate planning is no longer necessary; in fact, the opposite is true. Without skillful and careful planning for health care directives, business succession and power of attorney specifications, much of what was worked for over one's lifetime may be lost. Fortunately, by concentrating on a few important areas, one's wealth may be used and distributed in a satisfying and helpful way.

It is vital to address one's long-term medical needs in a living will or elsewhere. A family's situation may depend on the physical disposition of the person leaving behind significant assets. Therefore, deciding on how an unconscious or permanently incapacitated person will be cared for is of paramount importance in estate planning. A medical power of attorney as well as a living will are recommended. Putting down in writing what decisions should be made in case of a long-term non-communicative or vegetative state will help eliminate anxiety and confusion in the time between a final illness and death.

Probate costs can eat up much of what a person wanted to give to his or her loved ones. For this reason, it may be best to avoid probate entirely. Instead, payment of debts could be specified in limited liability companies, a living trust, joint titles and other legal constructs. Making sure one's money goes to family and friends, not court costs, may be a thoughtful and responsible thing to do.

Estate planning is a gift in itself to those left behind. An attorney experienced in guardianship, patient advocate and conservatorship matters may be able to help a family take only productive steps in planning for issues surrounding the end of one's life.

Source: Investing Daily, "Your Estate Planning Agenda", Bob Carlson, August 07, 2013

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