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Leaving instructions for when you're gone

However unlikely it might seem, a large rock could fall on a clear Fullerton night and kill you. Rather than trying to figure out the odds of such a thing happening, it might be better to contemplate this question: Have you made an estate plan to pass on your belongings to those you love and care about most?

Each of us faces a certainty that we will die at some point, so it makes sense to leave instructions to be followed afterwards on how to disperse our belongings, and about who is to raise or care for our minor children and so on. 

Wills, trusts, directives
Those instructions often come in the form of a will, but can also include trusts and other legal tools that direct others on how to handle matters when we’re gone.

Of course, sometimes we’re not truly gone yet, but are instead incapacitated by a medical event or accident and unable to make health care decisions or financial decisions on our own.

For those possibilities, it makes sense to plan ahead with a health care directive that makes clear your desires about extraordinary medical procedures, and who is to make medical or financial decisions for you.

Why should I care?
One financial planner said he’s irked when people say “I’ll be dead, so why should I care?” That’s an irresponsible attitude, he says.   

“You want people to remember you for the good things you did, not the mess you left,” he said.

Few people really want the state to decide who should raise their children or how their assets should be distributed upon their death. But that’s exactly what happens when a person dies without a plan for their estate.

The best first step in creating clear instructions is to sit down with an estate-planning attorney for a discussion.

Source: Star Tribune, “Resolve to get your affairs in order,” Tim Engle, Feb. 19, 2014

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