Creating a formal estate plan is the best way to ensure the distribution of your assets goes as you wish after your death.
Every estate plan is personal, but there is some basic documentation any estate plan should include.
Will or trust
You can use a will or trust to document what you want to do with each of your assets, including naming guardians for pets or minor children. The primary difference between a will or trust is that you name a trustee to ensure the distribution of assets, whereas a will goes through probate court before distribution.
Health care proxy
A health care proxy will make decisions about your medical care should you ever be in a position where you cannot make them for yourself. This position could take effect permanently, for an extended period or just temporarily until you are capable of making your own choices again.
A durable power of attorney
A durable power of attorney is similar to a health care proxy. You name a person or agency to make decisions on your behalf when you are not capable of making them yourself. A durable power of attorney handles business, financial and some personal decisions for you.
Designating beneficiaries is something you do in your will or trust. When discussing what you plan to do with your assets, you must name a beneficiary. You can leave everything to a single individual or entity, or you may choose to divide your assets among varying individuals.
This is not a comprehensive list of possible documents to include in your estate plan. Depending on your assets and family structure, you may include other documentation.