Estate Planning

Estate Planning

April 15, 2024

I am often asked which estate planning documents are necessary vs which documents are less important.  The answer is very specific to each person’s individual situation; however I can share a few basic portions of a well rounded estate plan below.  This list is not exhaustive and I would recommend consulting with an advisor or an Estate Planning attorney regarding your specific situation:

  • Will. These come in many forms and although they are a good document to use to help dictate how you wish your assets to be divided up after you pass away.  The downside is that this document alone is still subject to the probate process.
  • Trust. There are several forms but one of the most common is a Revocable Living Trust.  These help determine how your assets are divided up and managed after your death.  These are a great tool because it allows you to be very specific about your wishes and can be changed/updated at any time.  Items in a Trust also are able to bypass the probate process which makes things easier for the loved ones that you leave behind.  This would also allow you to leave assets to minor children and help ensure that they are taken care of.
  • Power of Attorney (Healthcare and Financial). These documents essentially allow you to give someone else control over your affairs if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.  It is important to pick someone that you trust that will act in your best interest or carry out your wishes the way that you would like if you were making the decisions yourself.
  • Guardianship. This is commonly used for parents of minor children to determine who would care for them until adulthood if something were to happen to both parents.  This is a critical item for parents of minors and one that I see overlooked frequently.  I recommend having a conversation with whomever you want to select as guardian to ensure that they are up to the task of caring for your children.

Lastly, although it is not a separate document, I always recommend that you ensure that your beneficiary designations are up to date on ALL of your financial accounts.  This includes not only your investment accounts but also your checking, savings, and employer plans. 

This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only.  Please consult your investment professional, legal or tax advisor for specific information pertaining to your situation.