What should you include in your estate plan beyond a last will?

Many people put off creating a last will repeatedly because they don’t want to spend time thinking about the end of their life. While it is natural to want to avoid such an unpleasant topic, failing to plan for your death can mean that your loved ones get left at a disadvantage when you die.

Creating a last will is a great first step, but it isn’t the only step that you should take when planning your estate. After all, the end of your life can often involve more than just the distribution of your assets.

Plan for medical issues that leave you incapacitated

Whether you experience cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s disease or have a pulmonary embolism that puts you in a coma for several weeks, you could eventually experience a medical event that prohibits you from communicating your wishes or needs to others.

A thorough estate plan should include documents related to medical preferences as well as assets. An advanced medical directive can spell out all of your specific wishes if you aren’t able to make medical decisions for yourself.

Financial power of attorney documents can help ensure that someone has the authority to access your accounts and manage your financial situation on your behalf. Medical power of attorney authority can take the pressure off your spouse or children and ensure that someone who knows your wishes will be the one making decisions for you. A durable power of attorney will allow you to name the person who makes decisions for you if the courts formally determine you are incapable of doing so yourself.

Creating a trust can protect your wishes and your family

You might want to include a trust as part of your estate plan for a number of reasons. Having a child with special needs could mean that you need a trust to help provide for them after you’re gone.

If you have significant assets that might require the payment of estate tax, a trust may diminish your estate enough to help your family members avoid those taxes. If you have minor children and worry that a former spouse or their guardian might spend their inheritance before they become adults, a trust can help prevent that as well. Trusts are tools that can work for many situations through careful customization.