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Using powers of attorney and living trusts in an estate plan

Estate planning and procrastination too often go together. People might not want to think about end-of-life planning, or they may think that they don't have enough assets to warrant the effort. Anyone in Florida, however, could benefit from estate planning. It could spare their relatives costly ordeals in the event of a medical crisis or death. At a minimum, people need to establish powers of attorney. For those with assets to pass on, a living trust could achieve their goals.

Power of attorney documents can assign a trustee to manage property, money and health care in the event of incapacity. By selecting a trusted individual to take care of these important affairs, one could prevent assets hanging in limbo when bills need to be paid. For example, a spouse would not be able to sell stocks purchased in the other spouse's name without a power of attorney granting control. Without powers of attorney, an incapacitated individual's bills could go unpaid, and loved ones might not know the person's wishes about medical care.

As for the distribution of assets after death, one can seamlessly direct many asset transfers by naming beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance. For assets that do not have beneficiary assignments, living trusts present a solution. A benefactor can place assets in the trust and spell out who gets what. With a trust, most distributions will happen privately and on schedule. Trusts also grant control by preventing the need for intervention by a probate court.

A person interested in strategies for estate planning could discuss concerns and goals with an attorney. A legal evaluation could inform the client about methods for preserving wealth, minimizing taxation and avoiding family disputes. An attorney could offer advice about how to select trustees and prepare the necessary documents.

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