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What is an Estate Plan? How Do I Make An Estate Plan?

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: May 30, 2017

How to Make an Estate Plan

There are several elements to an estate plan that are key to you and your family being taken care of and your goal being met.

An Estate Plan is a collection of legal documents that you create to handle events that occur in everyone’s life.  There is not one document that handles everything; however, the good news is that a collection of legal documents will be able to handle most things.  The most common legal documents for an estate plan consist of a revocable trust,  a Will, a Financial Power of Attorney, a Medical Power of Attorney, a Designation of Guardianship, a Directive to Physicians, health care information release and other related documents.

Once you take an inventory of assets such as investments, real estate, businesses, insurance policies, retirement accounts, you have a good idea where to start. Then you need to figure out whom you want to inherit your assets after you pass. It’s also a good idea to decide who you would want to handle your financial affairs if you were incapacitated, and who you would want making medical decisions for you.

At our firm, we offer a free initial consultation either in person, over the telephone or via Apple FaceTime.  The key is to get started and not “over-think” the process.  You come up with the general idea of what you want to accomplish and who you want to appoint to make decisions if you are unable and we will guide you through the rest.

After you know the answers to those questions, you can start on your estate plan. An Estate Plan typically has Five elements:

  • A Revocable Trust: A Trust is terrific because it is effective the day you sign it, it is effective if you are medically unable to manage your assets and if you pass away, all the assets owned by the Trust avoid the cost and delay of probate.
  • Will: When you die without a will, the state gets to decide what to do with your assets, not you or your family. Wills are especially important if you have young children, since it makes it possible to transfer guardianship to a trusted relative or godparent. A will is necessary even if you already have a trust, since a trust can only deal with certain assets.
  • Power of Attorney (Financial): This is a document that empowers a friend, relative, or trusted advisor to manage your financial affairs if you were unable to do so.
  • Power of Attorney (Medical): This is a document that empowers someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make your own medical treatment decisions.
  • Health Care Proxy: A medical care advance directive, the document that states what medical care you want to receive in extreme situations, is helpful if you are incapacitated. But it’s more effective if you have assigned a health-care proxy. This is someone who knows your wishes in advance and has been given legal power by you to make those decisions if you are unable.

Over the past 27 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped more than 900 clients prepare and utilize simple and effective planning techniques to protect them and their families in order to avoid probate, save estate taxes, save money and save added emotional burden that comes from long term illness and/or death of a family member. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help you and your family.

Christopher Benson

About the Author Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More