What should I include in my estate plan?

A reliable and complete estate plan protects estate planners and their families during what is anticipated to be a difficult period of time. When drafting an estate plan that is thorough and accounts for the wishes of the estate planner and cares for their loved ones, it is important for estate planners to be familiar with the several different types of documents that can be part of an estate plan.

Estate planning is too often avoided. Yet, this process helps protect the interests of estate planners and their families, including minor children through the appointment of a guardian. Estate planning typically begins with a will, which is usually the first type of document incorporated into an estate plan. Wills must be properly drafted and executed in order to be valid, so it is essential to know the rules and requirements that are applicable to these documents.

A living revocable trust can be useful in an estate plan, too. This legal vehicle can make it easier for surviving family members who may need to access the estate of a loved one in a timely manner. A trust can help avoid the probate process, which can be costly and time-consuming. It is important to keep in mind that with this particular type of trust the estate planner has access to the trust's assets during his or her life. Each type of trust has important rules that must be followed in order to be legally valid, though, so estate planners need to make sure they know the law and how to apply it to their unique set of circumstances.

A power of attorney document is also helpful to help ensure that an estate planner's finances are handled according to their wishes in the event that they become incapacitated. Similarly, an advance healthcare directive or healthcare proxy can help ensure an estate planner's medical wishes are fulfilled if they are incapacitated.

T estate planning process encompasses a number of legal decisions that can be tailored to fit an individual's unique circumstances. Developing an effective estate plan is not something that people should avoid. Instead, they should consider working closely with a legal professional who can help guide them through the process to given them and their loved one security and peace of mind.