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How to Develop Your Estate Plan

Christine Benz

Christine Benz: Hi, I'm Christine Benz for Morningstar.com. Estate planning means that you're crafting a plan for a time when you can't make decisions on your own, either due to death or disability. Who would you want to manage your healthcare or financial affairs, or take care of your minor children? Who do you want to inherit your assets? That's what estate planning is about.

The first step in the estate planning process is to find a qualified attorney. It's best to seek referrals from individuals whose situations are similar to your own, especially if your situation is somewhat unique. The website for the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a nonprofit organization, allows you to search for highly qualified estate planning attorneys in your area.

Before you meet with your attorney, spend some time listing your assets and their value. That means your investment accounts, life insurance, personal assets such as your home, and your share of any businesses that you own.

Another key aspect of the estate planning process is identifying key individuals to carry out your wishes once you're gone. That means thinking of people to serve as your executor, powers of attorney, and guardians if you have minor children.

When you meet with your estate planning attorney, he or she will make recommendations about your plan and which documents you'll need. Most people need a will, a living will, and assignments for medical and durable power of attorney.

Contemplating your mortality or a disability isn't fun, but creating a plan can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. 

Thanks for watching. I'm Christine Benz for Morningstar.com.