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What documents should I have in my estate plan?

Finding the motivation to start estate planning is not always easy. You may have gone back and forth between starting on your plan and putting it off for another year. However, having a plan in place sooner rather than later typically proves more beneficial because a sudden accident or illness could befall anyone at any time, and being prepared could save much time and anguish later.

If you feel ready to start the planning process, remember that it is a process for a reason. It will likely take time to get your affairs in order, but taking that time to truly consider what you want and understand the documents that could helpmay prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Important documents to consider

Though each person’s estate plan has unique elements, certain planning tools can prove useful to most individuals. Some documents you may want to gain more information about include the following:

  • A will: A will is the standard document that most commonly comes to mind when people think of estate planning. This document can act as the cornerstone to any comprehensive plan and can allow you to name guardians for any minor children you have as well as express your wishes for property distribution.
  • Beneficiary designations: Some of your assets may not have to go through the probate process after your passing if they allow for beneficiary designations. For instance, savings accounts and retirement funds often have the option of naming a beneficiary to receive the funds directly.
  • Power of attorney: Power of attorney documents can allow you to name a trusted person to handle your financial or medical decisions should you become incapacitated. The same person could handle both financial and medical affairs, or you could name separate individuals for each.
  • Letter of intent: This document does not strictly hold any legal value, but it could give you the opportunity to further explain any decisions you made in order to provide more clarity to your executor, beneficiaries or family members.

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of every document you could use for your plan. While these can help cover the basics and provide some instruction, you could go further and create a trust or living will to make a more comprehensive plan. If you have questions about which documents could best benefit you, you may want to discuss your specific details with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania attorney.