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Confusion continues to muddle estate planning efforts

There are no shortages of reasons why many South Carolina residents fail to complete the estate plan the vast majority of them fully understand they should and intend to establish. Of course, there is the uncomfortable thought of dealing with one's own mortality, but sooner or later everyone needs to confront that reality. And for many, there are difficult decisions or perhaps no good choices when it comes to dividing up assets among beneficiaries. But it's also true there is simply a common lack of understanding regarding what purpose individual estate planning documents serve and how they work together to protect the individual's interests.

Legal commentators point out a great deal of confusion exists because the terminology that has developed over the years has been anything but clear. For instance, a common form of trust that an average person or couple can employ may properly be called a 'living trust," but a 'will" and a 'living will" are two entirely different documents. Additionally, although a will and a trust are two distinct documents, both can accomplish many of the same estate planning objectives.

Add to the mix the fact that there are 'powers of attorney" and 'durable powers of attorney" for different interests that mean different things, and it is easy to see why many throw up their hands in exasperation and defer the whole matter for another day. That can be a mistake, not only because passing away without an estate plan may result in an unintended distribution of assets to heirs, but also because a comprehensive plan can protect the individual during his or her lifetime as well.

Take the first step. An experienced estate planning lawyer may explain how the various estate planning documents can work in concert to offer the best possible plan to protect one's assets and legacy.

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