Planning Your Estate and the Documents You Need To Get Started

Planning Your Estate and the Documents You Need To Get Started

Knowing where to begin can be the most daunting aspect of estate planning. Most of us know that we need to take precautions to secure our assets and provide for our families after passing, but the specifics of doing so are often murky.

After all, making a will or establishing a trust is the beginning of a comprehensive estate plan. Your estate plan needs to address several other concerns before your assets can be passed on to your beneficiaries after your death without complications. Regardless of your financial or economic status, estate planning is necessary to avoid long-term inconveniences.

To make planning easier, we’ve compiled a list of essential estate planning documents. Let’s dive right in.

Itemized Inventory

Making a list of your assets is the first step in estate plans since it allows you to prioritize what should be bequeathed to whom. Spend some time evaluating your property and compile a list that includes the following:

Real estate, including your house and land


Articles of furniture

Clothes and jewelry



Identification Documents

Having all your identification documents in one easy-to-access location like a 3-ring notebook is helpful for your executor. This includes the following:

Your Social Security ID

Birth, marriage, and divorce certificates

Documentation of discharge from military service

Prenuptial agreements

Divorce settlements

Insurance Policies and Financial Information

It’s wise to have all your insurance policies in one place, whether for your vehicle, house, health, or life. Make sure you have a record of all your financial assets and how to case them in case something terrible happens to you. These includes:

Usernames and passwords

Investment portfolios


Pension plans

Bank accounts

Tax returns

Retirement benefits

Credit cards


To keep track of this information, you can copy statements and store it in your notebook.

Your Will

Creating a will may seem intimidating, as though it were something only the wealthy would bother with. A final will is an essential aspect of any estate plan, regardless of the size of your wealth or the number of assets you may pass on after death.

It’s the roadmap for how your property will be divided after you pass away, and it might help save your loved ones from feuding. A will also allow you to specify who will care for any small children in case of your untimely demise. You can use a will to donate to a charity of your choice.

The will must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or heirs, then notarized by an estate planning attorney. Finally, be careful to share the document’s location with others so they can easily retrieve it if necessary.

Financial Power of Attorney

A durable financial power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes another person to act on your behalf in financial and property matters. Things like bill payments, deposits, and property management fall under this category.

If you get ill and require medical attention, your financial agent can access your assets to cover the costs associated with that care and keep your family fed and clothed. They can coordinate with your healthcare agent to ensure you receive quality treatment within your budget.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

With a durable healthcare power of attorney, you can name a trusted individual, such as a spouse or family member, to choose your medical care if you cannot.

If you’re considering signing something along these lines, it’s crucial to find someone you can confide in, who understands and shares your values, and whose advice you can reasonably expect to accept. Ultimately, you would be putting your life in this person’s hands.

Lastly, you should select a backup agent in case your first choice is unreachable or unable to take immediate action.

HIPAA Release

The most well-known aspect of HIPAA is its protection of the confidentiality of your medical records. Because of HIPAA, your health records will remain private and won’t be shared without your permission.

With a signed HIPAA release, your loved ones can discuss your health condition and treatment with doctors and other healthcare providers and see your medical records. Your doctor will not talk to them on the phone, advise them of your situation, or even ask them for information on your behalf unless you give them explicit permission.

Living Will

Decisions regarding terminal care can be managed with the help of an advance directive, often known as a living will or declaration of life. It is essential to specify what forms of life-sustaining medical care you do and do not want if you become terminally sick and cannot express your choices for yourself.

Cremation Directive

After you pass away, your loved ones will have to make many tough choices, and one of those is likely what to do about your remains. In many cases, cremation is the more affordable choice. Prearranging your cremation will save your loved ones from having to second-guess your final wishes or speculate the costs. Specific measures must be taken to ensure that your wishes for cremation are carried out.

A cremation directive is a legal document that confirms your wishes to be cremated after death. You may consider having your cremation directive executed and signed in several original copies to ensure that all relevant people know your preferences in advance.

The Bottomline

Having a will in place is an excellent first step, but it is not enough. Choosing a beneficiary for your estate is just one part of estate planning. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones are to have the correct legal documentation. It’s the best way to make sure your wishes are carried out. Most of all, it can spare your loved ones from emotional anguish and guessing what you would have wanted under challenging situations.

This process can be much easier with an estate planning lawyer on your side. Don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Edward J. McCloskey. We can help you create an estate plan and protect your legacy and family. Call 504-267-3122 to schedule a consultation.