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Overwhelmed by estate planning? Focus on the basics

It can be very difficult and uncomfortable to discuss what you want to happen with your care and assets when you can no longer make these decisions. However, it can prove to one of the most important steps in protecting yourself and your loved ones.

There are many factors that can come into play in estate planning. In fact, there are so many options and tools available that it can become overwhelming and easy to just put off creating an estate plan. But rather than give up, you can instead concentrate on the basics and your goals.

The first thing that you can focus on is determining who will be affected by your plans. Do you have children? Are you married? Are there charitable organizations you want to support?

Once these parties have been identified, lay out all the assets and debts that you currently have. You will want to collect information on bank accounts, real estate ownership, investments, loans and interests in businesses.

Based on the valuation of these assets, you can decide how much of this will be slated for providing long-term care if you should ever need it. Any assets left over should be distributed to others.

This can be an emotional step in the estate planning process, as it requires you to evaluate personal relationships and balance that with your individual wishes. But essentially, you will want to consider if you want to distribute assets equally among family members or other parties, or if your distributions should be more reflective of individual circumstances.

After giving each of these areas some thought, you can then name the party or parties who will be in charge of making sure your wishes are carried out effectively. You can also name your power of attorney.

Of course estate planning can be difficult and complicated. However, bringing it back to these basics and really focusing on what you want and how you wish to care for your loved ones can help you take the most important steps in building an estate plan. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to work through this process alone. Speaking with an estate planning attorney can help you identify your options and take the necessary steps to protect your wishes.

Source: NASDAQ, "Estate Planning Guide 101: A Basic Guide To Establishing Your Estate," Joe Young, Oct. 15, 2014

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