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Three important estate planning documents

Estate planning for Florida residents can mean a wide variety of things depending on the specific circumstances and goals of the people involved. A person who is in his or her third marriage with children from previous relationships, for example, is likely to have more complicated estate planning needs than a person who has no children and has never been married. Regardless of the situation though, there are three estate planning documents that are generally more important than others. These are wills, living wills and powers of attorney.

A will is a document that establishes instructions for the distribution of a person's estate, including bank or brokerage accounts, jewelry, cars and other assets for which there is no named beneficiary. Some types of assets, like life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts, can pass through naming a beneficiary outside of a will. A will can also name a guardian to take care of a person's minor children if he or she dies.

Living wills are different from wills in that they can take effect while the person is still alive. Typically, living wills contains instructions regarding the administration or non-administration of medical treatment in the event the person becomes incapacitated. They dictate things like how long a person should be kept on life support. Powers of attorney may also take effect prior to a person's death. They name someone, referred to as the attorney-in-fact, to pay bills and handle other matters on behalf of a person who is incapacitated.

People who have questions about establishing a Florida estate plan might want to speak with an attorney. One who has experience in these types of matters might be able to help by developing a plan that fits the client's circumstances. In addition to the documents mentioned earlier, trusts can often be an important part of an estate plan for many people.

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