Planning Considerations

Estate planning is much more than just deciding how your property is to be distributed in the event of your death. It can involve deciding who will manage your finances or who will care for your physical person, if you are unable. It can also involve a host of other considerations, which are often overlooked.

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Estate Plan Documents

Estate Planning is much more than just deciding how your property is to be distributed in the event of your death. It can involve deciding who will manage your finances or who will care for your physical person, if you are unable. It can also involve a host of other considerations, which are often over

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While exactly which legal documents a person may need will likely vary dramatically based on a variety of different circumstances, there are a handful of “must have” legal documents everyone should have.

While each of these legal documents can provide benefits independent of the other, when used collectively, they can provide you with a comprehensive estate plan that delivers complete protection from probate, guardianship and conservatorship, along with a host of other estate planning concerns.

Among other documents, a comprehensive estate plan may include all of the following documents:

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you determine, specifically, which documents should be included with your estate plan. Based on your individual goals and objectives, these documents can address a variety of issues, such as: how your assets will be divided, whether or not your estate will be subject to probate, what costs will be involved, how long it will take to settle your estate, whether the process of distribution will be public or private and even how much control you or your executor will have over the entire process.

Other Considerations

Insurance and Retirement Accounts

Legal documents alone, however, are not a complete estate plan. Insurance products such as life insurance and annuities, along with retirement accounts (such as defined benefit plans, 401k’s and IRA’s) also play an essential role in estate planning.

These types of assets are generally distributed by naming a beneficiary. While non-beneficiary assets pass to heirs by intestate succession, will or trust, assets with a beneficiary designation go directly to the named person(s). As a result, beneficiary designations should be carefully coordinated with other estate planning instruments. These designations should also be reviewed on a periodic basis, especially following a life-event.

Instructions and Organization

The final component of any estate plan should be leaving clear, written instructions to your executor or successor trustee. This may include specific directives about how certain non-monetary assets are to be distributed or other considerations. It can also include things like creating an inventory of financial assets or a list of important contacts - such as your insurance agent, financial advisor, doctors or other professionals. If you have online accounts, you may also want to consider including a list of user names, passwords and security questions.

Many of these components are often overlooked in the estate planning process, yet each can be essential to delivering your intended outcome. Others can cause unintended conflict or discord, if not well orchestrated. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that consideration is given to all, and each, of these aspects of the overall planning process.

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