From Forbes — By Coryanne Hicks —  

A Michigan jury recently ruled that a will found in Aretha Franklin’s couch is valid, hopefully ending a grueling five-year battle over her estate. Five years of bickering and legal fees probably isn’t what the legendary singer had envisioned for her family after her death. However, arguments — and more — are what could happen if you don’t have a proper estate plan in place.

While Franklin’s case may be a bit extreme, it still takes on average 400 hours over 16 months and $12,400 in fees to finalize an estate, according to a study commissioned by ClearEstate, an estate planning and settlement company. But this doesn’t have to be the case for your loved ones.

Consider these five estate planning tips to make your family r-e-s-p-e-c-t your wishes. Otherwise, settling your estate could hurt like hell.

1. Start with some basic tools

When creating an estate plan, you’re creating a toolbox, says Patrick Simasko, an elder law attorney and financial advisor at Simasko Law in Mount Clemens, Mich. “Aretha Franklin had one tool: a will she did on her own,” Simasko says. And while a will is a powerful estate planning tool, there are other simple tools you need to protect yourself and your loved ones—in life and death.

A will or trust

When they go to work: Upon your death (but living trusts, during your lifetime)

Why they’re powerful tools: Because you get to say what’s what

Often thought of as the cornerstone of any estate plan, a will or trust details who gets what and when they get it after your death. While thinking about death is no one’s favorite topic, skipping the process sets your loved ones up for a struggle akin to the Franklin family.

If your finances and assets are relatively straightforward, you might find that a basic will suits your needs. A trust could be a better tool if your finances are more complex—or if you live in a state with a probate process known to take a while. Luckily, we have two guides to help you learn more: everything you need to know about wills and a guide to trusts.

A living will

When it goes to work: During your lifetime

Why it’s a powerful tool: It’s a document that can relieve your loved ones’ stress

It’s time to talk about the worst, folks. If the unthinkable happens—say, a car accident or a heart attack—you’re unlikely to be able to make your own decisions about emergency care. A living will tells doctors and other medical professionals what you want done (or not done) to extend your life.

For example, you could want all the bells and whistles today—CPR, life support, and more. But your feelings might change later in life or if you’ve endured a prolonged illness. A living will prevents your loved ones from making these decisions at a stressful time.

A medical power of attorney (POA)

When it goes to work: During your lifetime

Why it’s a powerful tool: This doc appoints someone you trust to direct your medical care

Everyone has a family member where they’d rather go blind than put that person in charge of their healthcare decisions. So channel the late, great Etta James to make your family r-e-s-p-e-c-t your decision Aretha-style and appoint someone you trust to make your healthcare decisions if you cannot.

With a medical POA, you name someone who can make decisions about your medical care if you cannot. Many hospitals can help you with a basic medical POA if you’re admitted for care. You can also set one up in advance. Just ensure the person you appoint as POA knows they’re appointed and has a copy of the document.

A financial POA

When it goes to work: During your lifetime

Why it’s a powerful tool: This doc appoints someone you trust to manage your money

Aretha Franklin’s estate was worth more than $80 million. And while you might not have that much in the bank, your finances still deserve the attention of someone you trust. A financial POA names someone to handle money matters in case you cannot.

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