The Six Essential Aspects Of An Estate Plan

The lawyers at Coodin & Overson, PLLP, have more than three decades of experience helping individuals in Woodbury, Lake Elmo and the surrounding region develop their estate plans. In this time, we've found that while many individuals are adept at planning for retirement, they fail to consider what will happen to their assets after their death.

While every estate plan is — or, at least, should be — unique, there are six major considerations that everyone should take into account when planning for their future.

  • A will — The will is the best-known estate planning tool. It establishes what assets you will leave, whom you will leave them to and the party responsible for carrying out your wishes. It is important to note that if you neglect to devise a will, the state of Minnesota will ultimately decide who your executor will be and how your holdings will be dispersed.
  • TrustsTrusts, like wills, are a useful means to ensure that the value of your estate is not unduly jeopardized after your death. When you place your assets into a trust, you can name a third party to manage those assets according to your wishes. As such, by establishing a trust, you can maintain control over how your holdings will be distributed to your family in the near- and long-term. Moreover, trusts can be leveraged to protect your assets from a variety of taxes.
  • Power of attorney — Through a power of attorney document, you can name an individual or small group to manage your finances if you become unable to do so yourself. This is crucial; if you become incapacitated by illness or injury, the power of attorney is the only means to ensure that your private affairs are managed according to your wishes. If you do not make use of this tool, then the state has the authority to decide who will handle your affairs.
  • Advance health care directive — Like the power of attorney document, an advance health care directive is a means for you to keep control over your life even if an illness or injury incapacitates you. Such a directive will stipulate the extent to which you wish to receive medical treatment, it will name someone to act on your behalf if necessary, and it will prevent your family from having to make such decisions for you in moments of crisis.
  • Beneficiary designations — Just as you ought to name your beneficiaries in your will, there are a variety of other legal documents that merit naming a beneficiary. These include insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts and related considerations. You may name a family member or other individual as a beneficiary; you may also designate a trust as a beneficiary as a means to avoid taxes or maintain control over the asset's management.
  • Continual review — Your estate plan should be treated as a living document; as your life circumstances continue to evolve, you may wish to revise certain aspects of your plan. Quite often, failure to update an estate plan results in the bequest of assets to former spouses or other inappropriate parties.

For a more comprehensive discussion of these topics, please see our article on the subject of essential estate planning tools. Likewise, if you are ready to begin planning for your future, reach out to us. You can call our firm at 651-319-5180 or contact us online. We're always prepared to help.