Getting started with wills and estate plans


Getting started with wills and estate plans

Wills and estate plans protect what happens to your assets and family when you’re gone.

Getting started with wills and estate plans


Protecting your family isn’t about worrying about what the future holds.

It means that no matter what the future holds, they’ll be ok.

By establishing the key documents in an estate plan, you’ll be more confident in positive outcomes for you and your loved ones. Let’s dive in.

What is an estate plan?

You have an estate. We have an estate. Everyone has an estate. That’s because an estate is simply everything you own. So an estate plan is a set of legal documents that ensure your estate is handled and distributed how you want it to be in the event of your incapacitation or death. If you haven’t made an estate plan yet, you’re not alone: neither have seven in ten adults.1  That doesn’t mean they’re not important, though.

Where there’s a will, there’s a (legal) way

The central document in an estate plan is your will. A will is a legal document that establishes your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children.

If you die without a will, your wishes may not be carried out. Not to mention, your heirs will spend time, money, and emotional energy trying to settle your affairs. 

But a will alone won’t take care of everything for your heirs. If you only have a will, beneficiaries will simply receive what you bequeath to them and are free to do what they want with it.2 However, a trust established by your estate may be able to stipulate how, when, and why funds you leave to your loved ones may (or may not) be used. 3

Beyond the will

An estate plan can contain more than a will. Whether you need those additional documents may depend on whether you have a business, a prior marriage, minor children that will inherit assets, the size of your estate, or if you think your will may be contested. Additional documents are also important in the case you become incapacitated, and may include:

  • Living trust: gives a designated person, the trustee, responsibility for managing your assets for the benefit of the eventual beneficiary.
  • Power of Attorney (POA): gives one person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to act in your stead. The agent can have broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about your property, finances, or medical care. 
  • Advanced Health Directive: expresses your wishes regarding health care decisions and your instructions for your final arrangements should you become incapacitated. 

Done properly, establishing these kinds of documents will help ensure your wishes are carried out, even and especially if you have a diminished capacity to do so yourself.4

The path ahead

It’s a big topic and a lot to take in, right?

But staying positive is all about staying in the know about how to protect your family.

By embracing the power of preparing now, you’ll have a clear view of the path ahead. 

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Reference / Sources

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