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An estate plan is the only way to ensure end of life wishes

Most people understand the value of a will and intend to create one. The question is when. Wills and other estate plans tend to fall into the "I'll do it later" category as daily life takes priority. Most research finds that only half of Americans have an existing plan.

That's confirmed in a recent study, which adds that 81 percent age 72 and older, and 58 percent of those between ages 53 to 71 have wills. Close to half of Baby Boomers still haven't put their wishes in writing. An estate plan requires dedicated time but, once it's completed, it provides peace of mind for you and security for your loved ones.

Different options to provide security

Last year The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study about what people want at the end of their life. In the US, people want that security - too avoid putting a burden on their families through the cost of health care and after life matters such as a funeral.

Estate plans can meet these needs, specifically through a will, trust or health care directives. If someone doesn't have an estate plan, the government will step in to appoint a guardian and to manage inheritance in probate.

  • Wills - A will is a legal document proclaiming who will inherit specific property and how to distribute it upon death.
  • Trusts - Trusts are a legal entity created to transfer ownership of property from one person to another. They are more complex than wills and generally provide extra protection of assets.
  • Health care directives - A health care directive is a legal order concerning medical treatment if you're incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions about health care options.

Don't leave loved ones with a burden

There are many estate plans and the data suggests most people want to establish that security, but simply put off the final decision. The only way to truly make your medical decisions ahead of time, to cover their costs as you wish, and to share your assets with your family and friends is to create a legal estate plan.

An estate plan provides clear direction which, in turn, reduces time and cost in probate. Depending on your wishes, you can limit the tax burden of sharing an asset or you may be able to provide long-term guidelines to help take care of an adult child with special needs. There are many options, some more detailed than others, to make sure that tour end of life wishes become reality.

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