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Estate Planning


Estate planning is far more than the stack of documents that tell your friends and family what to do in the event that you are incapacitated or die.  It is a process of defining goals and wishes and putting a team in place to ensure those are met.  Planning for your death or incapacity is an ongoing process that will change as the needs of you and your family change.

The Documents

Most estate plans will involve some combination of these documents, all of which should be tailored to your specific situation and goals.

Last Will and Testament

Regardless of the other documents in the plan, everyone needs to have a will.  This document not only provides for the disposition of your assets, but most importantly, it names the person or institution who will be in charge of wrapping up your affairs and distributing your assets.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney names someone to act on your behalf to manage your assets and finances in the event of your incapacity or unavailability.  This agent has broad authority over your assets, but, to the extent you are able to make your wishes known, they should be followed.

Health Care Directive

A health care directive can accomplish a number of different goals within one document.  Primarily, it names the person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf.  They will only make decisions if you are unable to do so, but will be able to communicate with medical providers at any time.  This document can also incorporate your wishes for end of life care

Beneficiary Designations

We can create the perfect estate plan, but if beneficiary designations on assets such as insurance and retirement accounts do not match up with the plan, your wishes may not be met.  Additionally, some people use beneficiary designations such as transfer on death or pay on death to avoid probate, without considering the ramifications to their estate plan.


There are a wide variety of trusts that can serve different purposes in an estate plan.  Not everyone needs a trust.  The main reason people use trusts is to avoid probate.  But, an estate planner needs to take into account whether probate is even an issue for the estate and whether the probate process could be useful in this situation.

Instructions and Information

The last piece of the estate planning puzzle is a practical one, not a legal one.  Making a list of instructions and information can help your support team tremendously in the event of your death or incapacity.  What day is trash pickup?  How often and when do you feed the dog?  What bills are on auto pay and which account do they come out of?  These seemingly little things can make it far easier for someone else to step into your shoes.

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