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The 3 main goals of an estate plan

There are dozens and potentially hundreds of individual goals for an estate plan, which differ from person to person. What your goals are depend on what assets you have, what you want to accomplish and what your family needs.

However, the basic goals that you have can be divided into three main areas of focus. They are:

  • The basic distribution of the money and assets you control after you pass away.
  • Reducing the amount of taxes that your heirs have to pay on the inheritance and ensuring that those taxes are not exorbitant.
  • Making sure that, should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions while you are still alive, you have a trustworthy person in place to do it for you.

If you start with this focus, you can then get down to the finer details of your own estate plan. For instance, you can pick which heirs will get which unique assets -- singular items that can't be divided, like artwork -- and how you will divide major assets like a home, a retirement account or a bank account. You can pick someone to make medical decisions for you, should they need to do so, and/or you can set up an advance directive to make your own wishes known to your heirs and the medical professionals who may then be involved in your care.

Again, all of the specifics vary from plan to plan, but this helps you see where to start. Make sure you know what options you have and what steps to take to get your wishes down on paper.

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