Simple Steps to an Estate Plan
Take care of your family by making a will, power of attorney, living will, funeral arrangements, and more.
1. Make a will.
In a will, you state who you want to inherit your property and name a guardian to care for your young children should something happen to you and the other parent.
2. Consider a trust.
If you hold your property in a living trust, your survivors won’t have to go through probate court, a time-consuming and expensive process.
3. Make health care directives.
Writing out your wishes for health care can protect you if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. Health care directives include a health care declaration (“living will”) and a power of attorney for health care, which gives someone you choose the power to make decisions if you can’t.
4. Make a financial power of attorney.
With a durable power of attorney for finances, you can give a trusted person authority to handle your finances and property if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs. The person you name to handle your finances is called your agent or attorney-in-fact (but doesn’t have to be an attorney).
5. Protect your children’s property.
You should name an adult to manage any money and property your minor children may inherit from you. This can be the same person as the personal guardian you name in your will.
6. File beneficiary forms.
Naming a beneficiary for bank accounts and retirement plans makes the account automatically “payable on death” to your beneficiary and allows the funds to skip the probate process. Likewise, in almost all states, you can register your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts to transfer to your beneficiary upon your death.
7. Consider life insurance.
If you have young children or own a house, or you may owe significant debts or estate taxes when you die, life insurance may be a good idea.
8. Cover funeral expenses.
Rather than a funeral prepayment plan, which may be unreliable, you can set up a payable-on-death account at your bank and deposit funds into it to pay for your funeral and related expenses.
9. Make final arrangements.
Make your wishes known regarding organ and body donation and disposition of your body — burial or cremation.