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Important Note:

June through November our agency may become prohibited from binding coverage should a “Tropical Disturbance” enter the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

In these cases we may be unable to bind new coverage quoted in open proposals until the storm leaves our area and our binding authority has been restored.

Please arrange your coverage protection early to avoid this type of delay. While we regret any inconvenience, the carriers impose these restrictions on all agencies.

What You Need to Know About Estate Planning

If you are among the many Americans who does not have a will, it’s time to reconsider that decision. According to a recent survey from Northwestern Mutual, a good third of Americans have done absolutely no financial planning, and most of us feel we could be doing more. What gets overlooked often, is estate planning.  Without a will, there are no guarantees that your assets will be distributed as you wish.

If you don’t use a will or another legal method to transfer your property, state law will determine what happens to it. This can be particularly problematical for unmarried couples. If you happen to live in a state that does not recognize domestic partners, your significant other could wind up with nothing in the event of your death.

Fortunately, creating an estate plan is not difficult.

All you need is a will and a few other basic legal documents to ensure your wealth is distributed appropriately while saving your family significant aggravation during what is certain to be an already stressful time. You can start with these simple steps.

  1. Make an inventory. Before you can decide who gets what, you need to create a comprehensive list of your assets. This includes personal belongings, life insurance benefits, your home, other real estate, business interests, retirement savings and other investments. Make note of possible inheritors.
  1. Evaluate the people you trust. Do you still have young children? If so, you’ll want to think about the right person to name as their guardian. You’ll also need to select someone who will become responsible for executing your will. Additionally, choose a friend or relative to handle your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated and someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Note: you may choose one person to tackle all these roles.
  1. Draft your will. If you have few assets and simple wishes, you may be able to draft a will with the help of inexpensive software or a web-based legal document service. If your situation is more complex—or you prefer the assistance of a professional—you should hire an attorney to draft your will and accompanying legal documents (more on those later). At this time, you will also name your executor, the individual who will be responsible for distributing your property, filing taxes on behalf of your estate, and dealing with your creditors.
  1. Create a POA. A POA, or power of attorney, is a legal document granting someone you trust the right to act as your agent in the event that you become mentally incapacitated. The individual will be able to pay your bills, manage your investments, and make key financial decisions on your behalf. While a durable power of attorney goes into effect immediately, most people create a springing power of attorney. It will not go into effect until you’re no longer able to handle your finances on your own.
  1. Draft an advance medical directive. Also known as a living will, this document will let your healthcare team know your wishes regarding life-sustaining medical intervention. Within it, you can outline what you want—or don’t want—in the event that you become terminally ill. While you’re at it, assign a healthcare power of attorney. The individual you select will be empowered to make other medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so.

You should review your will with your financial advisor once a year. If something major occurs in your life—such as a birth, death, marriage, new investment or real estate purchase—update the document as soon as possible. You may also want to speak to your advisor about creating a trust. Not just for the extremely wealthy, trusts can be helpful if you have significant assets, young children, or want to reduce your estate and gift taxes.