As you get older, you may realize that it’s important to start working on your estate plan. There seems to be a misunderstanding among many people, though, that a will is all you need.
A will is not equal to an estate plan. An estate plan does, however, include a will.
What is a will?
Your will is a legal document that will go over how you want to have real and personal property distributed at the time of your death. This document has to be witnessed and signed to make it legally binding in most situations.
A will is important, because it passes on your assets and can be the one form that prevents the need for a long probate court process. A good will can save time and money as your family looks to inherit assets you’ve left behind.
That being said, a will is not all your estate plan should include. Your estate plan will have many other documents designed to protect you, too, such as your power of attorney documents, trusts and others.
The basic elements of an estate plan
An estate plan is more than a single legal document. It may contain several different documents such as:
- Health care directives
- Your last will and testament
- Your power of attorney designations
- Guardianship assignments for minor children
These and other items should be included in the estate plan to make sure you are cared for when incapacitated or at the end of your life, your children are cared for if you pass away when they are minors and that you can pass on assets to those who you’d like to have receive them.
Your estate plan should be comprehensive
The goal of any good estate plan is to be comprehensive and provide protection to yourself and others who you care about. A poor estate plan could lead to trouble like will contests or conflicts in the future.
A will is a good start to an estate plan, but usually, people can benefit from having additional documents in place to protect themselves, the people they care about and their assets.