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Generation X: Estate Planning

BOSTON (CBS) - For many people Generation X is frozen in our minds as this 25-year-old but they are no longer kids. Many of them have kids of their own. And most have not done any estate planning.

Wrongfully thinking that they don't need to because they haven't accumulated many assets or consider themselves too young to be thinking about dying.

Estate planning is a key element in any financial plan no matter what your age. Estate planning allows you to decide how your assets should be distributed upon your death. Thinking that dying only happens to old people is a stumbling block when trying to get younger folks to think about estate planning.

I would love to be able to say that everyone will live to the age of 90 but that's not realistic. No one gets out of this world alive! And the average age of widowhood is 56. Average!

If you do not have a will the state of Massachusetts will provide one for you. It has estate laws that dictate to whom your assets should go to if you die. And if you are married with young children and both parents die who becomes the children's guardian will be up to the state of Massachusetts' court system.

Think about that for a moment. Do you want your cousin Vinnie and his wife to raise your kids? If there is life insurance money involved, cousin Vinnie will probably step right up to help out.

Estate planning does not have to be fancy, expensive or complicated. You need a will for starters. You name an executor/executrix to carry out your wishes and distribute your assets and if you have minor children you can name a guardian for them in the will.

Make sure all of the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, your retirement plans, and your annuities are up to date. This is so important!

Durable Power of Attorney: this is a document that you use while you are alive; it allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf legally and financially if you are unable to.

Health Care Proxy: this document allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf and make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them. Again, this is a document that should be discussed before you write someone's name in the blank space. This document is not just for your grandparents!

Choose wisely and talk about how you feel about death and dying with the person you have asked to be your proxy. To down load free copies go the Massachusetts Medical Society's website.

One more thing:  Do check with the person you name as guardian at the time you are drafting the will to see if they would be willing to accept that responsibility of raising your kids. That's an awesome responsibility! Choosing the grandparents may seem like the logical thing to do, but think about your mom at 80 teaching your daughter to drive or helping her buy a prom dress. Look to a sibling or a friend as your first choice with grandma as a backup.

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