Your estate plan probably starts with a will. It's the most basic document expressing what you want to happen with your estate after you pass away.
However, some people make the mistake of assuming that this is all they need. The reality is that this is just the beginning. You may also want to consider the following:
- A trust
- Specific beneficiary designations
- A durable power of attorney
- A health care power of attorney
- A letter of intent
- Guardianship designations
While some people refer to these as "must have" documents, it really depends on the specifics of your estate.
For instance, a trust may be used because you want more control over your money. Perhaps you have an 18-year-old heir. That person is a legal adult and could inherit your assets directly, but you want to make sure they use the money to go to school. You can use an educational trust to do it.
Or, if your child is a minor, then you may need guardianship designations to go along with the trust. The trust can hold the money until your child is old enough to use it. In the meantime, the child can get the care and support that they need from a guardian who agrees to be legally responsible for them.
The key to making an estate plan is to understand that there is a multitude of options. You don't need to use them all, but some of them can be incredibly helpful. They may be tools you never considered before. Make sure you look into all of the options that exist.