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Addressing your estate plan: Facing reality

Estate planning is a topic that is sometimes considered morbid or threatening, but the reality is that it must be done. With good estate plans in place, you can protect your beneficiaries, heirs and loved ones. You protect your estate and everything you've worked for, even if you're no longer here to appreciate it.

Estate planning usually involves three things, what happens if you fall ill or can't take care of yourself, provisions for end-of-life care and instructions for what happens after your death. It's hard to know exactly what you'll want or where you'll be years from now, but getting a plan started is a good idea.

Dividing your estate: Reducing conflict

Inheritance fights are a significant concern among some parents. As they plan their estates, they worry that their children will end up fighting over what they leave behind. Parents don't want to put their children in that position, so they best thing they can do is to create a solid estate plan.

Money is a common cause of family fights. No one wants to think that a parent gave more to one child over another or gave away the money completely. The reality is that no matter what the children think, a parent's wishes should be honored.

Immediate concerns following a loved one's death: Estate plans

When a loved one passes away, the last thing you want to have to think about is legal steps to take. The good news is that you can work with your attorney to prepare for that time, so everything is in order and ready to go.

The first thing you'll want to prepare for is to get access to your loved one's legal documents. You want to find financial statements, tax returns and other information about the estate. If you can get this ahead of time, you can have your attorney keep copies on hand, so the documents are ready when needed.

Preparing for the future through power of attorney documents

There may be a day when, for one reason or another, you are unable to make your own decisions when it comes to important things like your finances and personal care. However, there are ways you can control what would happen in such situations. Specifically, you can prepare for this possibility by picking someone to make decisions for you. You can do this by granting this person power of attorney. How do you grant someone this?

Should your business always work with an attorney?

As a business owner, the last thing you should do is sign contracts or agree to arrangements without a legal expert reviewing those documents. You may think it's easier to simply sign off on documents as they arrive, but if you aren't careful, you may not catch the details that could end up hurting your business. For instance, you might agree to hire a contractor and sign off, not realizing that you had no termination clause.

In any case, prevention is always going to be better than looking for a way out of a bad situation. Taking just a few moments to speak with your attorney about contracts or documents before you sign them could put you in a better position. If you don't and end up with a problem, it's likely to cost more to resolve than if you'd prepared for the worst early on.

Who can make decisions for you if you can't?

As you age, you know the growing importance of having an estate plan in place. You may think it's only important if you have children or direct heirs, but the reality is that it's important no matter who you are.

As someone without children, you're known as a Solo Ager. One important question you need to ask yourself and have an answer to is, "who is going to make decisions for me if I can't do so myself due to physical or mental illness?" You'll need to determine what you want to have happen and put it in your estate plan and will.

Worried about an audit? What's the likelihood of an audit?

Every tax season, Americans feel the pressure as they fill out tax forms and hope they've done them correctly. The tax deadline is passed now, in May, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) still has the potential to complete audits.

People are almost too concerned about audits, though, because the likelihood of having one is slim. Out of the $149.9 million people filing tax returns for 216, only 933,785 were audited. That's only .6 percent.

France seizes domain name from American business owner

Domain names are something you create to link others to your websites. You purchase them and brand yourself based on it. It's vital to the success of your company online.

When you have a popular domain name, there's a chance someone could try to purchase it from you. What isn't common is to have someone seize it from you, like in this case. According to the news, the domain name "France.com" was under private ownership, but the French government seized it.

Trusts and wills: know the difference regarding your affairs

There’s a time in most people’s lives when they consider what will happen to their estate. You want the peace of mind that comes with knowing your assets and property are securely where you want them. This raises many questions, though. Is a trust the best way to leave your assets to the next generation? What about a will? How do they differ?

Trusts and wills are both useful tools for planning your estate, and do very different things in some cases. You may find that for your situation, both a will and a trust are what you need. Take a moment to consider the benefits of both.

What should I do if I can't pay my taxes?

If you can't pay your taxes, you aren't out of luck. In fact, this happens to many people every year in the United States. When you can't pay on time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) normally allows you to set up a payment plan. This plan works differently depending on how much you owe, but generally speaking, you can pay the debt in installments.

It's vital that you take steps to make arrangements as soon as you can. If you're proactive and acknowledge that you have debts that you owe, then the IRS will look more kindly on you. You do need to file an income tax return regardless of whether or not you can pay. You'll still owe taxes, even if you don't file your income tax return.

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