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Top 5 elements you should include in your estate plan

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Estate planning might seem daunting, but it ensures that your assets pass to your loved ones smoothly and according to your wishes after you pass away. It also helps minimize any legal complications and taxes that could arise.

Understanding the most important elements to include in your estate plan will help you get started.

1. Will

Although only 32% of Americans have a will according to, having a will is the most important part of your estate plan. A will outlines how to distribute your assets, who will inherit them, and names an executor who will manage the estate until its final distribution. Without a will, the state determines these details, often leading to outcomes that might not align with your wishes. Additionally, a will is necessary if you have children, as it is the proper place to designate a guardian for them in the event of your passing.

2. Trust

A trust can be useful for managing your estate both during your life and after your death. By setting up a trust, you can ensure that your assets are managed according to your instructions. Trusts come in different forms, each serving different purposes; for example, a revocable trust allows you to retain control over your assets during your lifetime but helps bypass the often lengthy and costly probate process after your death.

3. Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney is a document that comes into play if you become incapacitated. It allows someone you trust to manage your financial affairs – from paying bills to making investment decisions. Without this document, your loved ones might need to request the court to appoint someone to manage your affairs.

4. Beneficiary designations

Beneficiary designations are a straightforward way to pass assets like retirement accounts and life insurance policies directly to your beneficiaries without the need for probate. You should review and update these designations regularly.

5. Letter of intent

A letter of intent is a non-binding document that provides specific instructions on what you would like to happen following your passing or if you become incapacitated. While not legally enforceable, this letter can guide your executor or personal representative in managing and distributing your estate according to your wishes. It often includes personal sentiments and explanations about your decisions, which can provide clarity and comfort to your loved ones during a difficult time.

Incorporating these elements into your estate plan can significantly ease the transition for your family and ensure that your wishes are clear and legally sound.