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Draft a will if you're concerned how assets are distributed.

Byline: J.W. Elphinstone The Associated Press

Question: I'm a healthy thirty-something. When should I consider drawing up a will, and what other legal documents should I prepare?

Answer: Depends on your circumstances. If you individually own assets that don't have designated beneficiaries, such as real estate as opposed to a life insurance policy, and/or you have children, you should have a will.

"You should always draw up a will if you're concerned about how your assets will be passed," said Mark Stinson, director of planning for financial advisory firm Financial Advisors Inc. "Otherwise, your assets will pass according to your state's laws."

For example, in Maryland, half of a deceased's assets go to the spouse and half to the children. If the deceased doesn't have children, then that half goes to the parents.

"You could accidentally disinherit your spouse," Stinson said.

Also, most states don't recognize the rights of unmarried partners, so include a nonspouse in your will, health care proxy and durable power of attorney.

If you have children who are under 18, you should have a will that stipulates who will raise them if both parents can't. Make sure to ask the potential guardian if he or she accepts the responsibility before putting it into your will. Also, name an alternate guardian in case your first choice isn't able to care for your children.

If you're leaving property or assets to your children, then you should also name a custodian or trustee to manage the inheritance until the child turns 18. It's best that the guardian and custodian are different people.

To make sure your intentions are carried out, name an executor of your will. This person should be someone you trust and who would settle your estate how you want.

In addition to a will, certified financial planner Bedda D'Angelo recommends that anyone 18 years old or older prepare a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy and a living will. "As soon as people go to college, they presumably delegate financial tasks to their parents so the proper way to do that is with a durable power," D'Angelo said.
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Title Annotation:Wire Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 20, 2008
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