Estate planning: Do you know one will from another?

Have you executed a solid estate plan? If not, why? Perhaps, you're one of many Kentucky residents who cringe at the thought of having a discussion or making plans that focus on your own mortality. Many people procrastinate when it comes to estate planning, for this reason. There are also those who want to get things started but hesitate because they are confused about certain terms, such as wills.

There are various types of wills, and a key to developing a good estate plan is knowing the difference between documents, then determining which ones best fit your immediate needs and long-term goals. One helpful tip is to talk to someone you know with an estate plan in place -- in particular, someone who signed a will. Also, there is experienced legal support available that you can tap into at any time.

Here's what you need to know about wills

If you read celebrity news, you may have come across a story or two in recent years where a movie star or music icon has died without having a last will and testament. In fact, many deceased celebrities had no estate plans at all. This can cause great stress for surviving family members, who may wind up locking horns in lengthy probate battles. The following list provides basic information about wills that may help point you in the direction you need to go to help your loved ones avoid similar outcomes:

  • You may have heard of a living will. It has nothing to do with inheritance, however, and everything to do with your personal health care, regarding requests or instructions you wish to impart, should you become incapacitated in an urgent situation and unable to speak for yourself.
  • A living will is sometimes referred to as an advance directive.
  • Many people choose to sign living wills to retain a certain amount of control over what will happen if they suffer catastrophic injury or life-threatening illness.
  • A last will and testament is quite different from a living will.
  • This document is the one you'd use to list all your assets and the names of those you wish to receive a portion or all of your estate when you die.

There are, of course, many other types of documents that you can incorporate into your estate plan. For instance, you may wish to appoint a Power of Attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so due to mental or physical incapacitation.

One step at a time

You do not have to execute your entire estate plan in one day. You can take time to think things through and can also review your plan periodically, then make any changes or updates, as needed.

In fact, it is critical that you do so, if you hope to help your heirs and beneficiaries avoid legal problems down the line, such that might occur if you neglect to update a plan and life changes occur. If you divorce and remarry, for example, or a baby is born, such situations may prompt changes you'd want to make in your existing plan.

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