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The basic plan

Every good estate plan should include:

By HELEN HUNTLEY
Published February 15, 2004

* A will

The cornerstone of most estate plans, this document tells who gets what. Even if you have a trust, you need a will to convey assets that aren't in the trust.

* A durable power of attorney

This document gives someone authority to take specific actions on your behalf, such as selling property or investing money. You may want to include the authority to obtain medical information about you because federal privacy laws restrict access.

* A health care surrogate designation

This document gives someone authority to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

* A guardianship nomination for minor children under 18

This can be part of your will or a separate document.

Additional options to consider:

* A trust

Trusts offer flexibility and privacy. You can provide for management of your assets should you become disabled, set conditions for beneficiaries to receive funds and even provide for management of the funds on their behalf. Trusts bypass probate but there are costs to create and maintain them.

* A living will

You can specify whether you want extraordinary measures used to prolong your life if there is no hope of recovery.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]

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