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What documents do you need in your estate plan?

Many Americans haven't thought about creating an estate plan despite the numerous benefits they offer to you and your family. Individuals in San Diego should consider creating an estate plan to address what will happen to their assets, their end-of-life care and many other issues. 

You should have an estate plan even if you are young and healthy. Individuals who don't have a lot of wealth can still benefit from having an estate plan too. People in California should know there are several different legal documents they can include in their estate plan, but there are four essential documents to have to make sure your wishes are known and honored. 

What four documents should you include in your estate plan? First of all, make sure you have a will. A will documents how your property and assets will be disbursed to your heirs. Not having a will means the state will be in charge of disbursing your assets, which could mean some of your loved ones may be left out. 

A second document to have is a durable power of attorney. This document allows you to authorize someone else to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated. 

Another document that is essential to have is an advanced medical directive. This document will state what medical treatments and interventions you want and don't want. You may also want to consider appointing someone to make medical decisions for you in case you no longer can. 

Lastly, you should consider having a living trust in your estate plan. A living trust is often used for your property and can help you and your family avoid probate court as well as possibly reduce estate taxes. 

Individuals have several considerations to make when drafting an estate plan. It can be helpful to consult an estate planning attorney to discuss your specific needs and what documents will be the most beneficial for you and your family. 

Source: Northwest Herald, "Be sure to have these five estate planning documents at all times," March 27, 2014

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