An Estate Plan and a Will: What Do You Need?

It's easy to get confused when it comes to legal terms about estate planning. Read on and learn about both estate plans and wills and find out what is best for you.

Last Will and Testament

This instrument has been the chosen way to leave behind instructions since ancient times. Everyone needs a will, no matter what else you might have created because all states require something to be filed in probate court after death. If the deceased did not own much property, however, the estate may not have to go through probate. For those that pass away without a will to probate, the estate will still go through probate and use the succession laws of the state to assign beneficiaries.

An Estate Plan

This term refers not to a single document but an entire bundle of documents. Some of those documents are meant to cover not just death but incapacity as well. Everyone has different needs, and your estate plan will contain parts that are unique to your needs. Your estate lawyer will listen to what you want, make suggestions, and create a custom-made plan that addresses needs you perhaps did not even know you had. Though it varies, an estate plan might contain these documents:

  1. A will. If you don't already have a will, a basic will should be created. Even if you never get around to other documents, a will can serve as a guiding overview of your wishes.
  2. A trust. Several types of trusts are available, from revocable to irrevocable and even pet trusts. Trusts are very similar to a will but superior in many ways. You need a will, but you can also add a trust to address things in a more detailed manner. For instance, you can leave your niece a sum of money in a will, but a trust, when funded, can direct how and when that money should be provided to her.
  3. Healthcare directives. Also known as a living will, this document lays out your wishes if you become unable to express them yourself regarding health decisions. You can, for instance, state that no resuscitation efforts be made if your heart should stop beating once you are ruled to be terminal. This is not a pleasant issue, but it is important as it takes the pressure off your loved ones to make those difficult decisions themselves.
  4. Power of attorney. You can have several types of powers of attorney to cope with various issues. They can be fine-tuned to do exactly what you want if you should become incapacitated or leave the country.

The above is only a sampling of the documents contained in an estate plan, so speak to an estate lawyer to find out more. Visit this website for more information: