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Many Americans often put off estate planning – sometimes for decades and decades. According to a 2019 study, nearly half of Americans over the age of 55 don’t have a will. And of seniors with a will, only 18% have a full estate plan: a will, a health care directive and a durable power of attorney.

Perhaps, some procrastinate creating these essential estate planning documents because they don’t like thinking about death. Some may believe only wealthy people need an estate plan. However, anyone can benefit from having a full estate plan.

The importance of creating a will

By having a will in place, you will control who receives your estate’s assets. Without one, the courts will decide how to distribute your assets. If you’ve remarried, that means your children from an earlier marriage may not receive the assets you’d like them too. If you’re an animal lover, you won’t get to pass assets on to your favorite local animal shelter.

Another benefit of having a will is that you can avoid having your estate go through a lengthy probate process. Your beneficiaries will receive their assets faster and won’t have the additional stress of dealing with a complicated probate process while also grieving. You also can choose someone you trust to serve as the executor of your estate – the person who will settle any debts you have, your unpaid bills and your taxes, as well as distribute your assets. Without a will, the state decides how to handle these matters.

The importance of having an advance health care directive

As you age, you likely will experience more health issues. An advance health care directive spells out your care wishes if you experience a health crisis where you are unconscious and can’t communicate. You also can dictate how you want your end-of-life care decisions made. By having an advance health care directive in place, your family members won’t have guess what your wishes are. It can reduce family conflict over your care too.

The importance of selecting a durable power of attorney

By having a durable power of attorney designated, you have chosen who will handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. You can select someone you trust – someone who you think will handle your finances as you would yourself. You also can discuss how you want your finances handled with your durable power of attorney when you select them, so they understand your wishes better.

Having a full estate plan in place will give you and your family peace of mind about the future. You will have made your wishes known and have people you trust execute them. Most importantly, you’ll save your family from added stress and uncertainty in a difficult time.