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3 estate planning documents everyone (even you) should have

Studies show that more than 50 percent of people don't have any sort of estate planning documents ready. Many of those people probably believe that they don't need estate planning because they're very young and just starting out or don't have any assets they think anyone will want.

However, things are rarely that simple. No matter what your age or personal wealth, there are at least three estate planning documents everyone (even you) should have.

-- A will that discusses the distribution of your personal property.

Even if you don't have any great financial wealth, there are likely items of yours that carry tremendous personal significance for other people. Those items might simply be looked on as "trash" by other people -- because they don't have economic value. A favorite t-shirt, an old jacket or even personal letters between you and your kid brother could become treasured mementos for your survivors.

A will gives you the ability to pass those things onto the people who want them. You can avoid huge family conflicts after you are gone simply by making certain that everyone gets something that they personally value -- even if it has little value for anyone else.

-- Paperwork that puts someone in charge if you're incapacitated.

Very few people die suddenly -- the vast majority of people will experience some form of incapacity before dying.

If you want your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining medical equipment followed, don't rely on what you've told other people or other people have promised. Unless you have the appropriate power of attorney documents giving someone the specific right to make your health care decisions for you, it's very difficult for hospitals to legally obey those wishes.

-- A digital power of attorney.

Ever since 2012, the federal government has encouraged the use of some form of social media will, like a digital power of attorney. That will give someone you trust the ability to get your passwords and login to your social media accounts when you're no longer able to do so.

Your digital accounts may hold pictures and memories of you that they don't want lost. You can also decide if you want your accounts ended or memorialized.

For more information on estate planning, an attorney can provide you with advice and guidance on this difficult subject.

Source: online.wsj.com, "Estate Planning -- It's All About Your Legacy," John J Scroggin, AEP, J.D., LL.M., accessed May 04, 2017

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