Most estate plans typically include a Last Will and Testament as well as a number of other financial and healthcare documents. Generally speaking, any adult person of sound mind can make a Will by observing the basic legal requirements. First, the person making a Will must clearly identify themselves, stating their full legal name along with a brief description of family members. Second, the person must declare that the document is, in fact, their Last Will and Testament. The Will also must be made freely, without duress or undue influence. Finally, the Will should be signed and dated in the presence of at least two people who are not beneficiaries under the terms of the Will. These are the basic legal requirements. If any of these basic elements are missing, it is unlikely that the document will be considered to be a valid Will. Additionally, there are some other legal issues that should be taken into consideration. For instance, if possible, the Will should be self-proved. It is usually less costly and more expedient to probate a validly self-proved Will. For these reasons, it always is advisable to seek the advice of a local attorney when making a Will in order to make sure that Will is both valid and self-proved. For more complex estates, a revocable or irrevocable trust also may be used to help avoid probate or reduce estate taxes. In the event of some form of mental incapacity, an estate plan also may help eliminate the need to appoint a guardian of the person or estate. Another important consideration is who should be included in the healthcare decision making process. Making these types of decisions beforehand can be extremely helpful to other family members in the event that an unanticipated healthcare issue arises in the future. Finally, making decisions about burial, funeral or other disposition arrangements may be included in a person's estate plan. Every estate plan is unique, but everyone at least should have a valid and self-proved Last Will and Testament. Estate planning does not have to be complex in order to be effective, but planning for the future should be Chess, not Checkers.
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