Estate Planning ComponentsUnderstanding an Estate Plan
Estate planning involves more than just a set of formal legal documents. An estate plan is comprised of a number of components, including: legal documents, financial accounts, your instructions and the organization of your information.
Estate Plan Legal Documents
Typically, an estate plan would include one or more of the following types of legal documents:
1. Revocable Living Trust
2. Power of Attorney
3. Advanced Directive
4. Living Will
5. Last Will and Testament
An attorney will determine which documents need to be included in your estate plan. These documents address many issues, such as your care after incapacity, end-of-life care preferences and asset distribution during your life and after your passing.
Retirement accounts (pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs) and financial products (life insurance, annuities and mutual funds) are another component of an estate plan. These types of assets are distributed by beneficiary designations, instead of trusts or wills. As a result, they need to be carefully coordinated with the provisions of your estate planning documents. Your beneficiary designations also need to be periodically reviewed and updated as necessary.
Instructions and Organization
The final components are written guidelines for your power of attorney / successor trustee / executor and the organization of the information he/she will need to properly fulfill his/her duties. These components are frequently overlooked, although they are essential to make the others function as you want.