The 9 Essential Documents for an Effective Estate Plan

It isn’t always easy to talk about worst case scenarios, but death is inevitable, and you of course don’t want to burden your family with financial decisions that should ultimately be your responsibility. To protect your heirs and beneficiaries, it’s a good idea to plan your estate ahead of time. Not sure where to start? These are the 8 essential documents for an effective estate plan.

1. Last Will and Testament

This document defines what you believe to be in the best interests of your children and pets after you’re gone, what to do with possessions of sentimental and/or financial value. Also, if you’re married, according to AARP, your spouse will need a separate will.

2. Personal Will (or Trust)

No matter your age, you should have a will. This particular document allows you to decide how your possessions, properties and financial assets are distributed if something were to ever happen to you.

3. Power of Attorney

This document lets you direct those decisions not covered in your will to your power of attorney or a designated estate handler if need be.

4. Beneficiary Designations

These papers legally and specifically define who your benefactors are so that there is no confusion when it’s time to disperse your estate.

5. Letter of Intent

Aside from what’s laid out in your will, a letter of intent lets others know your last wishes. For example, you can use this document to define how or where you would like to be laid to rest.

6. Advance Care Directive (Living Will)

Your will doesn’t kick in until you’ve passed, so you’ll want to set up what’s called a “living will”. This document names someone who will be responsible for making medical decisions in the case you are ever incapacitated.

7. Provision for Digital Assets

Digital devices and cloud networks store a ton of important info that can only be accessed with a designated password. You’ll need to fill out this document to provide your benefactors with a list of passwords.

8. Insurance, Records, Etc.

Other essential documents for an effective estate plan include insurance policies, pension forms, retirement paperwork, marriage/divorce records, birth certificates and real estate deeds.

9. Digital Estate Plan

What? That’s right. Welcome to the future. We now have digital assets to consider. All the accounts, that give us access to the files, folders, banks, systems and services need to be considered in the event of your death or incapacity.

Estate planning is never fun but it’s essential, and something we all have to eventually take care of. Get a good Estate Planning Attorney, work with them to gather and create the above documents and you’ll be all set to establish an effective estate plan that works for you!

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