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Billions of people strive daily to create a stable life for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, we cannot predict when a life-altering change will occur. Because of this, preparation for the unexpected is essential.

Nelrae Pasha Ali, a Senior Financial Advisor and Managing Director/Investments with Wells Fargo Advisors with more than 20 years of expertise and a focus on customized planning, says that making estate plans can help people prepare for these changes if they become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly.

Despite what some may believe, estate planning is not solely for the wealthy; in fact, estate planning is how people can ensure that all of their assets go to the correct individuals and that their wishes are respected.

“Not taking the time to make the right preparations can have severe effects on your loved ones. In fact, I consider estate planning as a love letter to the family,” Nelrae said. “If you want control after your passing, estate planning is the best place to start.”

A will, durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, a living will, and a revocable living trust are the five key documents for estate planning. Other forms may be necessary depending on your unique circumstances.

A will provides instructions for distributing assets to beneficiaries after death. In it, a personal representative (executor) is assigned to pay final expenses and taxes and distribute remaining assets.

A durable power of attorney for financial matters allows a trusted individual management power over individuals’ assets either now or at a later date, if they become incapacitated. This document is effective only while still alive.

A healthcare power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions on behalf of another person if incapacitated and unable to make these decisions for himself/herself.

A living will express intentions regarding the use of life-sustaining measures for those who are terminally ill. It ensures that no one else has the authority to decide what happens if these individuals become incapacitated.

By transferring assets to a revocable living trust, individuals can provide continued management of their financial affairs during their lifetimes, after death, and even for generations to come.

Everybody has a unique scenario when it comes to estate planning. “I start this discussion with clients by asking what is most important to them,” Nelrae said. ””It’s important to have this discussion while there isn’t a crisis in progress.”

Additionally, the person who someone wants to have manage their finances may not be the same person they want to have make decisions regarding their health in a crisis situation, so it is critical to have a plan in place. Again, if someone is incapacitated and their wishes are not recorded, their spouse may have one idea of what their wishes were while their adult children and/or parents may have another idea. This confusion could lead to havoc and leave families in financial or legal turmoil. Making decisions during this time can be very difficult, but having a written record of wishes will help loved ones navigate the family’s new normal,

Finding a qualified estate attorney is the first step in estate planning, according to Nelrae. The bottom line is that if you don’t make the decisions, someone else will.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.