Just like planning for retirement is necessary, so is planning for your death or incapacitation. This is where estate planning comes in. While you might think that only the very rich need an estate plan, in realty, people from all walks of life, young or old, need an estate plan.

complete estate plan does not just cover how you want the estate administrator to distribute your assets. It can also cover things like who you want to make decisions on your behalf if you are in a position where you cannot make decisions for yourself. However, while you are planning for an unknown future, you might be concerned about the behavior of various family members. Fortunately, if you are worried about family infighting if something happens to you, you can include certain documents to keep the fighting to a minimum.

Advanced health care directive

An advanced health care directive will come in handy if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself. For example, if you are in an accident that results in a coma, you will need someone you trust to speak for you. The directive can include your preferences for certain treatments you do or do not want. You can include a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order or various other directions if you are incapacitated.

Power of attorney for asset management

This document will allow you to choose the person you want to handle your financial affairs if you cannot do so on your own. By putting this power of attorney in place, it will help you avoid relying on a court’s determination on who should manage your finances. For example, a judge might name your oldest adult child to manage your assets, but maybe you know that he has no head when it comes to money management.

A will

A will is one of the most basic documents you can include in your estate plan. In general, it is the document that transfers your assets to your beneficiaries when you die. Unfortunately, a will may not be enough to completely avoid the probate process. You may want to consider creating other estate planning documents in addition to the will in order to mitigate the chances of your estate spending an excessive amount of time in probate.

Living trust

For many people, a living trust is a very effective tool for asset transfer. For one, there is more confidentiality when you use a living trust as compared to the probate process which is a matter of public record. In addition, the transfer or distribution of assets is generally faster and more flexible. Also, a living will reduces the chances of someone contesting the will. There might also be greater tax benefits by placing your assets in a living trust versus only a will.

It is never too early to start the estate planning process. As you are considering what estate planning strategies are best for you, keep the above options in mind.