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What are the most important documents for an estate plan?

When it comes to estate planning, there is one question that most people have first and foremost: Where do I start? For Pennsylvania residents who are thinking about starting their estate plan, it is important to know some of the key documents that should be included. So, what are the most important documents for an estate plan?

First, realize that an estate plan can address more than just "what happens to my stuff after I die." Comprehensive estate plans should cover situations that might arise while you are alive as well. That is why some of the most important documents in an estate plan are the power of attorney documents. There should usually be two of these documents: a power of attorney to authorize another person to make financial decisions on your behalf and another one to authorize someone to make medical decisions. In many cases, the appointed person will be the same for both documents.

Next, the bedrock of most estate plans is a Last Will and Testament. A Will is fairly straightforward - it dictates how your assets will be divided among your heirs, whether outright or in some form of trust, and who the executor will be to carry out your final wishes.

Lastly, some people are beginning to see the benefits of including a "letter of instruction" in their estate plans. These documents, while not legally binding, can include more specific details and directions for family members and friends and may include details about burial wishes.

It is best to consult with an experienced elder law attorney to help put your estate planning documents together and to advise you on these important issues.

Source: Investopedia, "4 Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs," Humphrey Thomas, April 6, 2018

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