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Estate planning for different stages of life

Residents of California should keep in mind that estate planning is a lifelong endeavor, and an individual should periodically return to and update their estate plan. A young, single individual should have documents that give someone the ability to make health care and financial decisions for them if they are incapacitated. They will need a durable power of attorney appointing someone to manage finances, a health care proxy naming someone to make medical decisions, a HIPAA proxy appointing someone to have access to medical records and a living will that discusses life-sustaining and end-of-life care.

An individual who is in a committed relationship may wish to write a will that leaves their assets to their partner while an engaged individual may want to add a prenuptial agreement to the estate plan. After marriage, the previously discussed documents should be revised, and beneficiaries on retirement accounts and insurance plans should be updated as well.

Once children are born, a will should appoint guardians, and the children should be added as heirs. Other steps to consider are nominating guardianship in case of parental incapacitation and creating a revocable trust.

Individuals who divorce must remember to remove their spouses from financial and other documents. In middle age, individuals may want to look into long-term care insurance, and they should continue reviewing and updating these documents as they grow older.

Some aspects of estate planning can be complex, and in some cases, legal language must be very precise for a document to remain valid. An attorney may be able to advise a client regarding what types of documents are necessary at different points in that individual's life as well as assist with decisions such as whether to create a trust.

Source: Bankrate, "8 life stages of estate planning", G.M. Filisko, Jan. 9, 2015

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