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Based estate planning documents that individuals need

Florida residents might like to know that, according to information from, half of people with children and 41 percent of individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 do not have a will. Without a will, it will be up to the state to determine how someone's assets are handled upon their death, as well as who will take care of minor children. Money is usually distributed based on a certain order, which often starts with someone's spouse, then their children and then family. However, a will is not the only estate planning document people need.

Related to a will is the issue of beneficiary designations for retirement plans and insurance policies. A beneficiary designation will override what is in a will, which is why people should ensure that they are kept up-to-date and changed appropriately when someone divorces or has a child.

People may also want to create a financial or medical power of attorney. A power of attorney grants a trusted individual the ability to make certain choices for someone who is not able to, for whatever reason. A financial power of attorney can give the chosen individual total control over someone's fiances or only certain types of transactions. Similarly, a medical power of attorney lets a selected person make choices related to someone's medical care, such as choosing long-term care and making end-of-life choices.

In addition to having a complete set of estate planning documents, these documents should also be kept current and follow the law. If a will or trust does not follow the law, it may be considered invalid or require probate to sort out, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Source: WTOP, "Estate planning basics: Three things you need besides a will -- and why you need a will, too", Barry Glassman, December 11, 2013

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