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Wills: Begin estate planning early for peace of mind

Most New York residents recognize the importance of preparing end-of-life documents, but some may not know the steps they need to take to get started with estate planning. People who take the time to work through this process, including the preparation of wills, trusts and other legal documents, ensure that their loved ones will know how their affairs should be handled after their death. Following these steps earlier in life can ease a person's mind and make the process run smoothly.

People can begin by making a list of everything they own, including not only tangible items such as a home but also intangible assets like savings and investment accounts. Many people initiate estate planning as a way to be sure their family is taken care of in the event of their death. These people are wise to look into a life insurance policy that would help their surviving loved ones cover daily expenses and perhaps also future costs, such as college tuition. The difficult task of dividing up a deceased person's belongings can be made easier if a will exists that clearly indicates beneficiaries, in other words, who gets what. 

It is also a good idea to appoint a power of attorney, whether an actual attorney or another neutral third party, who will be responsible for making decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person who is unable to speak for him or herself. People may choose to detail their final wishes either in a trust or a will. A will requires the appointing of an executor, who will handle distribution of assets and manage execution of the will throughout the probate process. A trust serves the same purpose of detailing a person's last wishes, but it does not require probate court and is handed over to trustees after the person dies.

Anyone thinking about taking steps toward estate planning is advised to start as soon as possible. While this task can seem daunting, many people in New York rely on an attorney experienced in preparing wills and trusts to help them smoothly navigate the process. This type of professional can review a client's individual circumstances and draft an estate plan that matches the client's wishes. An attorney can also assist with revisions as a client's situation changes over time.

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