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Planning your estate sooner can give you peace of mind

Many people put off planning their estate or creating a last will for years. You know that once you get married or buy a house that you ought to do it, but you keep finding excuses not to.

The truth is that it can feel nerve-wracking to consider your own death, but not doing it can leave you in a nervous sort of limbo. While we all hope for long, healthy lives, sometimes accident and sudden illnesses happen. What would happen to your family if you don't have a will?

Depending on what assets are in your name, it could take many weeks or even months for your spouse to gain control over all the assets if your estate goes through probate. Having a valid last will or estate plan in place gives you peace of mind by ensuring your family will be provided for if anything happens.

Plan early and update as needed

Instead of putting off your estate planning until you're retirement age, you should prepare to do it as soon as you have substantial assets or any dependents. That way, you know your possessions will get handled as you wish and your loved ones won't struggle. You also won't have to worry about claims of declining mental acuity impacting your estate or invalidating your last will.

The great thing about early estate planning is that you can always update your plan to reflect changes in your life. If an heir dies, you can have him or her removed. If you divorce or remarry, you can add or remove spouses as needed. If you acquire substantial new assets, you can change your plan to include them. Updating your estate plan is generally simple and helps ensure that your estate plan is accurate and executable.

Consider pets and even your health preferences

Would you like your organs donated? How long should you remain on life support without brain activity? What are your feelings about resuscitation? Don't expect your children or spouse to recall your stated preferences if you're hospitalized. Include clear medical directives in your estate plan to ensure your wishes get followed.

Similarly, if you have a pet and your children have moved out, include your furry loved one in your estate plan. Your pet is a possession, so you can't leave something to your pet. You can leave the pet to someone you trust, however. Be sure to speak with family members about your intentions, and then make the chain of custody for your pet official, possibly with an additional financial stipend to cover veterinary and grooming expenses for the new caretaker.

Your estate plan can help ensure that everything after your passing, from your medical wishes to your funeral, get handled as you'd prefer. Taking the time to make arrangements now will give you both peace of mind and confidence that those you love will be provided for, no matter what.

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