3 documents you need to create your estate plan

While creating a will and other estate planning documents may not be top of mind, it’s a concern you should take seriously. You don’t need celebrity-sized assets to be concerned that a lack of estate planning on your part could cost your beneficiaries dearly. And that’s just one compelling reason to create an estate plan. To get started, you’ll need three core documents: a power of attorney, living will and health care proxy, and a last will and testament.

1. Power of attorney

Photo of Power of Attorney document

A “power of attorney” designates someone to make financial decisions for you if you’re unable. It can trigger immediately after you sign it or after you’re incapacitated. Each type has its own characteristics, and a financial or legal advisor can help you decide what’s best for you, to ensure that your financial affairs will be attended to.

2. Living will and health care proxy

Family reviewing legal documents together

A “living will and health care proxy” can help you make sure that if you’re incapacitated for any reason, your health care wishes — including medical treatment decisions — are followed. Armed with this document, you can ensure that those decisions are made by someone you — and not the courts — designate.

3. Last will and testament

Photo of Last Will and Testament document

A “last will and testament” determines how your assets are distributed, who’ll care for your minor children and who’ll invest and distribute property held in trust for your beneficiaries. Its basic function is to help ensure your assets are distributed as you want.