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5 steps to protect yourself, your loved ones after you are gone

End-of-life planning can be a very difficult task. Not only can it be uncomfortable to discuss topics like estate plans and wills, but it can also be a very complicated process to make decisions on what you want to happen to your assets after you are gone.

However, as difficult as it is to create your estate plan, it can be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your loved ones. In order to do this, it can be wise to take the following five steps as you prepare your estate planning documents.

  1. Set up a trust: Leaving assets in a trust can help avoid probate, which is the process of proving a will and its legitimacy in court. 
  2. Have witnesses present: As noted in this article, many people claim that a person was mentally unfit to draw up a will or make changes to one, which is why they often challenge it in court. However, you can minimize this supposition of mental incapacity by having witnesses present when you sign the will. Recording the process can also allay the concerns of people who were not present at that time.
  3. Explain clauses that might be confusing or unexpected: The details of your estate plan are completely up to you. However, they can be challenged if they are unclear or go against what others expected. Rather than leave interpretation of your wishes up to others, you can explain any areas of your will that may appear to be surprising, inconsistent or unfair.
  4. Discuss the plan with your loved ones: To further explain these wishes, discuss them with the people who will be affected by them. This allows people to ask questions and make clarifications with you instead of after you are gone.
  5. Make sure the documents are legally enforceable: If your estate plan is not enforceable, every decision you believe you have made could actually be left in the hands of strangers. 

These steps can help you make the process of administering your estate a little easier and less contentious. While it may not be possible to completely avoid probate or guarantee a conflict-free process, being clear and mindful of your decisions and discussing them with an attorney can go a long way in protecting yourself and your loved ones.

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