People who need to make an estate plan may want to start by meeting with an attorney. While do-it-yourself plans are available, they often do not include all the options. In addition to a will, there are a number of other estate planning documents and vehicles that may be useful depending on a person’s individual situation, including a living will or advance health care directive, powers of attorney and a trust.
Some assets, such as retirement accounts, may be passed by beneficiary designation or other means that do not involve being listed in a will. People may want to consider a trust if they have a beneficiary who might be irresponsible with an inheritance. The terms of the trust say when the beneficiary can receive distributions, which may be at certain milestones or could be at the discretion of a trustee.
One important element of a will is naming an executor. This person is responsible for managing the estate, including submitting the will for probate, notifying beneficiaries, securing assets, paying creditors, filing taxes and distributing assets to beneficiaries. An advance health care directive can include instructions for medical care and appoint someone to make these decisions if the person is incapacitated. A financial power of attorney can give similar financial powers to an individual in the same situation.
People can talk to an attorney about their family and assets, and the attorney may explain their estate planning options. For example, people may not realize they can set aside money in a trust for a loved one with special needs so that the person does not risk losing access to government benefits. People who are concerned about family conflict and contests to the estate plan may want to include a clause in the will to discourage challenges.