When we think estate planning, many immediately go to a will. While your last living will and testament is a huge part of the process, it’s not the only piece that you need in your estate plan.
There are several other important documents that you need to establish with your lawyer. Here are the main things that every estate plan should include:
Will or trust
Your will allows you to make decisions about what happens to your assets after you pass. Without it, your estate will go through probate and the state will decide where the assets go.
You can also choose to create a trust in conjunction with your will. It can be active during your life or come into play after your death and exists as a place for your assets. If you have specific stipulations about when and how your heirs receive assets, you may want to set up a trust. Certain types of trusts can also be helpful for larger estates.
Living will and healthcare proxy
A living will and healthcare proxy decide what will happen if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. Your living will or advanced medical directive is a place for you to write down what medical decisions you want to be made in certain situations. Your healthcare proxy is the person that you appoint to make those decisions if the time comes.
Power of attorney
Your financial power of attorney is like your healthcare proxy but oversees your financial life. If you are incapacitated, this person will make decisions about your investments, assets and bills.
One of the most important parts of estate planning if you have children or dependents is to designate guardians. Guardians will be the people that take care of your minor children or adult dependents who cannot care for themselves.
Wishes for disposition of remains
In your estate planning documents, you may include what you would like to happen to your body after you pass. You can also include directions for your funeral if you wish.
Creating an estate plan can feel overwhelming and complicated. It’s scary to think about what will happen when you are gone. Working with an attorney that you trust can make the process much easier and can help take care of your family the best you can.