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Important steps to take when crafting an estate plan

Georgia residents and others will ideally create an estate plan that takes care of their needs both while alive and after passing. It is also important that individuals can articulate what their plan does and how it could impact the lives of family members and friends. One of the key issues to consider is how assets will be distributed. In some cases, it may be best to leave them directly to a beneficiary.

However, leaving assets to a trust may protect them from being taken in lawsuit or in a divorce settlement. Assets may be distributed per the terms of a beneficiary designation. This is generally true for money inside of an IRA or the cash value of a life insurance policy or annuity. It is a good idea for a person to review a beneficiary designation regularly to ensure that it truly reflects his or her wishes.

It can also be a good idea to review a power of attorney agreement. Those who are given power of attorney have authority to make financial or health care decisions on an individual's behalf. Reviewing these agreements every so often allows a person to consider whether an agent is truly capable of acting in his or her best interests. It can also provide an opportunity to determine if an agent is still willing to serve in that role.

Those who are seeking greater asset protection might want to create a trust. A trust generally shields assets from creditor claims or claims made in a divorce. It may also allow a person to transfer assets without the need for his or her estate to go through probate. An attorney might help to create trusts, wills or other estate planning documents or review any documents that have already been created.

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