Estate planning involves putting into place the documents necessary to ensure that your wishes are carried out and followed. This includes giving someone the authority to make decisions with you or for you while you are still living. These documents are called powers of attorney. Powers of attorney, both for health care and finances, and living wills, are the primary tools used to direct what happens to you and the use of your assets prior to death.
Estate Planning also includes giving someone the authority to carry out your wishes after you die. Post-death, the primary estate planning tools include wills, trusts*, beneficiary designations (also know as transfer on death (“T.O.D.”) and pay on death (“P.O.D.”) and an Authorization for Final Disposition. These tools direct what happens to you and your assets after death, as well as who administers the process of distributing those assets.
*Please note that trusts can also be used to direct the use of your assets while you are still living. This is just one of many benefits to having a trust over a will.*
To properly create an estate plan, it is necessary to identify each of your assets and income sources, as well as their approximate value. This information is then used to determine which estate planning tools are appropriate to use in creating your estate plan.