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The Essential Components of an Estate Plan

Estate planning documents, including a healthcare power of attorney on top and a living will declaration underneath

Ensuring You Include the Necessities

Though everyone’s needs are different, there are certain elements that should be included in each person’s estate plan. These elements can be customized to meet an individual’s unique needs, but each of these components is necessary.

Here are the primary components of estate planning to be aware of.

Will or Trust

A will is a document that outlines how you would like your assets to be distributed upon your passing. A will can also be used to determine who would become guardians of your children if something were to happen to you. Having a will in place as part of your estate plan ensures that your assets will be distributed to who you want them to go to and that your wishes will be upheld.

If you were to die without a will in place (known as dying intestate), then your assets do not automatically go to your spouse or next of kin; rather, your estate will be distributed according to state guidelines. In Texas, this means that your closest blood relatives will be named your heirs; in other words, your assets will be passed on to your children, leaving other important individuals such as your significant other or close friends.

A trust is similar to a will in that assets are distributed according to your wishes; the primary difference, however, is that having a trust in place at the time of passing means that your estate does not have to go through the probate process. Probate can be a lengthy and costly process that can cause significant headaches for those who are going through it. Determining whether you should have a will or a trust is something that you can ask your attorney when you craft your estate plan together.

Power of Attorney

If something were to happen to you unexpectedly and you were to become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, you will want to be sure that someone can act on your behalf. Having a power of attorney in your estate plan means you can choose someone to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so yourself.

A durable power of attorney typically reserves the right to make decisions based on a person’s finances if they are incapacitated. Should a medical decision need to be made, then you should include a medical power of attorney. Regardless of which type of power of attorney you include, you should be sure to have this as part of your estate plan.

Advanced Healthcare Directive

If in the event you become incapacitated and are facing a serious illness that might require end-of-life care, you may wish to include an advanced healthcare directive in your estate plan. This component outlines your specific wishes should you have a need for critical life care or are on life support. In essence, an advanced healthcare directive outlines whether or not you wish to be placed on life support, if you wish to receive certain treatments, or if you would prefer to pass on peacefully without treatment.

Other Considerations

If you have a retirement plan that could continue to pay out after your passing, you may wish to designate beneficiaries so that they can receive those payments after you are gone. You may also wish to include directions as to specific assets that might be a bit more complex than others.

Working with an Attorney on Your Estate Plan

Throughout the estate planning process, you might feel overwhelmed about the various components to consider as part of your document. It may be best to work with an attorney who understands state estate planning guidelines and who can help you create a plan that meets your unique needs. At Burrows Law Group, our attorneys know how important it is to protect your loved ones after you are gone; we will help you ensure that they are taken care of through your estate plan.

To learn more answers to estate planning questions or to speak with an attorney, call us at (972) 236-7798 or visit us online.