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Are the holidays a good time to talk about estate planning?

Are the holidays a good time to talk about estate planning? Well, they just may be. What better time of year than when you have the family all together? Besides, the new year is coming around and wouldn't it be nice to get some possible unfinished business squared away?

When it comes to estate planning, do we always have more time? Some people seem to think so, and they put it off inevitably. If you pass away unexpectedly, what can be worse for your loved ones than having the added stress of not knowing what the future holds for them financially while trying to deal with their grief? Estate planning can give peace of mind to both you and your family for the new year.

If you decide to talk about it with family members -- maybe after a holiday meal -- you might want to make a list of what details you want to clear up before going to see your estate planning attorney. Here are a few items to get you started.

-- Health care directive: If you don't already have a health care directive, you should have. If you are in a catastrophic accident or suffer a traumatic brain injury, who will make decisions about your health care? Let your family know your wishes, then you can strike this off your list.

-- Powers of attorney: Do you need to appoint someone as power of attorney to handle your finances? This may not be necessary if you and your spouse share assets and a banking account.

-- Will: You may want to talk about assets and who should inherit what. There may be certain items your loved ones are sentimental about and would like to have if you pass away. This way you do not have to make all the choices and it is a good way to let them know you care what matters to them.

-- Beneficiary designations: You can let family members know who is listed on your insurance policies and other accounts. Policies with beneficiaries listed should not have to go through probate, which will save your heirs from the additional costs associated with probate.

Imagine knowing that your family has made these decisions together and will not have to face the unknown if something happens to you. Now you can visit your estate planning attorney and start off your new year with peace of mind.

Source: Forbes, "Some Difficult But Important Conversations To Have This Thanksgiving," Erik Carter, Nov. 22, 2015

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