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Don't forget this person when planning your estate

New Jersey residents create their estate plans primarily for their heirs and loved ones. However, there is a vital aspect of every estate plan that has nothing to do with your heirs, and everything to do with you. If you neglect this component, you could live to regret it.

Your estate plan is just as much about taking care of yourself and your needs while you're alive as it is about providing a distribution plan for your estate to transfer wealth to your heirs. The benefit your estate plan provides while you're alive provides direction for what happens if you become incapacitated as a result of an accident or illness.

Incapacitation might happen after a stroke or heart attack. It could happen after a catastrophic car crash, or it could occur if you develop dementia.

Ultimately, if you become incapacitated, you won't be able to make decisions for yourself regarding your financial concerns and your medical care. This is where your estate plan will come into play. A thorough estate plan will establish a chosen individual to decide what will be done for you and how your affairs will be handled when you can't make these decisions for yourself.

Here are a few estate planning components that will appoint people and give them the power to make these kinds of medical and financial decisions on your behalf:

  • An Advanced Health Care Directive
  • A Living Will
  • A Durable Power of Attorney
  • A Revocable Living Trust
  • A HIPAA Release

If your estate plan doesn't include the above documents, you may want to speak with an estate planning attorney. As with all estate planning components, it's best to take care of these issues now rather than waiting until it's too late.

Source: MarketWatch, "This is the most important person to remember in your estate plan," Brad Wiewel, Nov. 17, 2017

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