Do you have a Michael Jackson estate plan?

As of my writing this article, he still hasn't been buried because his family cannot agree on where he should be laid to rest. The vultures are swarming for pieces of his estate. There was a feud over who would receive custody of Jackson's minor children, and it is uncertain whether or not there will be enough assets remaining to provide for them. Some simple lessons can be learned from this very public estate planning travesty and no matter the size or scope of your own estate, you need an estate plan.

Create a will and keep it updated -- This fairly simple document is a first step in the right direction. It can save your family time, money, and anguish in the event of your death. It also may provide you with peace of mind knowing your loved ones left behind will have a document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and who should be the guardian of your minor children. Your will also may give specific interment instructions. However, care should be taken to also advise your loved ones of these wishes in the event that your will is not read until after your burial.

Keeping your will updated is just as important as having a will to begin with. Financial affairs and relationships can change quickly. It is a good idea to review your will every year or two to ensure that it still represents your wishes and that it provides for the loved ones and dependents in your life.

Complete -- These documents are free and available on-line at http://209.235.219.117/pdf/choices.pdf. They can be completed without the assistance of an attorney. A health care power of attorney allows you to establish who will make medical decisions for you in the event of your inability to do so for yourself. A living will allows you to determine the type of care you would like to receive should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate.

Financial power of attorney -- A power of attorney for financial matters is a document that allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs. Depending on the type of power you would like to grant to your agent-in-fact, this person can assist you with your everyday financial affairs or their power can be limited to assisting you only in the event of your incapacity. This document may prove to be a great asset to a family member who is asked to step into your home and help care for your minor children. The person who has been granted power of attorney will be able to care for your household's financial affairs with little interruption.

Consider life insurance -- What if your estate is bankrupt? If you have dependents, you should consider purchasing a term life insurance policy to provide for them in the event of your untimely death. Term life policies are available in various terms, ranging from 5-30 years. They also are available in varying amounts. The cost is very reasonable for a policy that will provide your family with a great deal of peace of mind. According to www.reliaquote.com, a healthy 40-year-old male will pay about $30 per month for a $500,000, 20-year term policy.

An estate planning attorney or qualified financial advisor can give you many more tips to help you plan your estate before it's too late. You don't have to be a superstar like Michael Jackson to have an estate plan. All of us need one. Some are just more complicated than others.

Lori L. Embrey, MS, CFP, NAPFA-registered financial advisor