Some common-sense takeaways in estate planning

A certified financial planner passes along some solid advice in a recent article on estate administration, which we convey to our readers in Orange County and elsewhere across Southern California.

For starters, notes Jim Ludwick, a few select planning documents are essential in virtually every estate planning case, regardless of a person’s age, financial situation or marital status.

Like a will, for example. We have of course discussed the centrality of this document in estate planning before. As Ludwick notes, having an up-do-date and accurate will fundamentally enables its drafter to transfer property upon death with “clarity.” Not having an executed will reduces that important function by passing along the duty to a judge via probate and often opening up doors of confusion and discontent for family members, close acquaintances, charities and additional parties.

Health is of key importance to every human life, and relevant planning documents can help clarify an individual’s thinking regarding trusted parties and end-of-life decisions. As Ludwick states, and as any experienced estate planning attorney will readily echo, a living will (advance care directive) and durable power of attorney are important documents that can directly address material health concerns.

Should a would-be planner consult a proven estate planning attorney to discuss, draft and execute such documents, or can so-called “boilerplate” (do-it-yourself) templates suffice in most cases?

Tread carefully in trying to nickel and dime the planning process or simplify it through cookie-cutter forms, says Ludwick.

“More confused cases result from do-it-yourself legal documentation,” states Ludwick, who recommends that individuals proceed instead by conferring directly with a proven legal professional.

Taking that route is “safer,” he says, because an experienced attorney will carefully probe and fully understand a family’s unique situation and thereafter tailor relevant documents in an optimal manner.

And, of course, boilerplate documents are hard pressed to address anything more than the most generic situation. Moreover, there is a possibility in any given instance that they do not comply with the laws of one or more states taking an interest in estate matters.

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