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The other side of estate planning for Washington, DC residents

When most Washington, DC residents think of an estate plan, they think of wills and trusts. However, there is another side to estate planning that is just as important, if not more in some respects, as the documents that distribute property after death. A durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney could be crucial documents if an individual becomes incapacitated in some way.

When a person somehow becomes incapacitated -- through age, illness or trauma -- someone needs to be able to conduct that person's financial business. A durable power of attorney would give a trusted agent the ability to pay bills, sell assets or make any other financial decisions necessary to care for the incapacitated person. The powers can be as narrow or as broad as the maker feels comfortable with bestowing.

The same can be said for a healthcare power of attorney, which is a type of advanced medical directive. The trusted agent on this document will be responsible for making decisions regarding an individual's health. This person should be able to understand treatment information relayed by medical personnel and have the incapacitated person's best interests at heart while keeping his or her wishes in mind.

These documents can be essential to a well-rounded estate plan. Preparing for passing on one's legacy is central to estate planning. Preparing for the unfortunate eventuality of incapacitation can give both a Washington, DC resident and his or her family the peace of mind that someone will be able to make crucial decisions regarding finances and healthcare. Just like providing for family after death, having a durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney provides family with the tools they need to care for an individual under difficult circumstances.

Source: CNN Money, 10 steps to painless estate planning, Martha White, March 3, 2014

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