Health care durable powers of attorney. Designates an agent to make health care decisions only after a physician determines that a person is incapacitated and unable to communicate decisions. All members of your family who have attained the age of majority should have signed and updated health care durable powers of attorney.
Durable powers of attorney for financial affairs. Designates an agent to be in charge of your financial affairs should you lose the ability to handle your affairs due to a disability or due to becoming incapacitated.
Wills. Spells out your desired beneficiaries and how your assets will be transferred (other than those assets that pass through trust, by contract, or by joint tenancy) upon your death. It also names an executor, who is someone that is responsible for administering and settling your estate. You may name a family member, a professional, or an institution to serve in this capacity. Wills need to be updated periodically in order to reflect any changed circumstances (move to a new state, major changes in income tax laws, change in health, etc.).
Living trust agreements. Provide greater flexibility and control than wills and may be useful to achieve specific longer term objectives. They are more complex and entail ongoing responsibilities. It is important to balance the potential benefits of a trust with the total cost.
Records inventory. Taking inventory of all your assets and related documents. In the case of a sudden death or incapacity, and having no records, it can take a family more than a year, along with high attorney fees, in order to reconstruct everything.
Periodic revisions of estate plans. You should revise your estate plan at least every five years, or more often, under certain circumstances (death, disability, divorce, marriage, birth, move to a new state, changes in tax law, etc.).