Estate planning is not just an important step to take in ensuring one’s final wishes are met, it is also a kindness performed for the surviving loved ones.

Attorney Chris Woodard, co-founder of Woodard Law Group, says that by taking a handful of essential steps now, you can secure some comfort and peace of mind for those who will enact those plans after you’re gone.

“The way to think about it is you want to make it as easy as possible for the people that are carrying out your wishes,” Woodard said. “Odds are they are the people that are going to be grieving for you most.”

If you’ve already settled things like naming beneficiaries for insurance, or funeral arrangements or even whether or not to continue life support, you spare your survivors the heartache of making difficult decisions and the uncertainty of sorting through legal questions.

Woodard recommends a series of basic steps in estate planning:

► Power of attorney. Having someone authorized to navigate legal questions, administer wills and handle other legal matters can help a family avoid unnecessary expenses and proceedings after a loss.

► Living wills. These address end-of-life issues like the life support question and funeral details, sparing the survivors doubt and uncertainty about the decisions.

► Wills vs. trusts. You may need to think about guardianships for children or naming beneficiaries of an inheritance. A trust will be administered without court supervision by a trustee you designate. A will must be probated and administered by an executor, which could have legal costs attached.

► Review. Once you’ve done your estate planning, return to it every time there is a major change in your life. A divorce or death might mean you need to change the beneficiary of an insurance policy, 401(k) or bank account balance, for example.


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