Top 5 Things Every Estate Plan Must Have

Estate planning involves creating an estate plan to ensure your assets and finances are managed as you wish if you become physically incapacitated, mentally incapacitated, or you pass away. To leave out room for speculation and ensure that your wishes are carried out, it is important that you include these items in your estate plan.


Many people believe that wills are just for the wealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you do not have substantial assets, a will is an absolute necessity. Your will allows you to communicate your wishes regarding asset distribution. An estate plan should also include the grantor’s trust. A trust is a legal vehicle that allows a third party – the trustee appointed by the grantor – to manage their estate and can help minimize estate taxes.

The wording of a trust or will is incredibly important. When creating your will and trust, avoid complex language, legal terms, or jargon as best you can. To prevent confusion and dispute between beneficiaries, include instructions regarding the distribution of only those assets that you haven’t bequeathed outside of your will.

For example, if you have already nominated a cousin as a beneficiary on a retirement account or insurance policy, do not bequeath the same asset to a second cousin as it could lead to a will contest.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows a person designated by the grantor to act on their behalf when they’re unable to make decisions themselves. If a grantor does not create a power of attorney, a court may make decisions on their behalf if the person is found to be mentally incompetent. Your POA gives your agent the authority to sell and buy properties and enter into financial agreements on your behalf.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent describes how a particular asset should be managed after the grantor’s death or if they become mentally incapacitated. A grantor can also include funeral instructions or other special requests in their letter of intent. Though a letter of intent may not be valid in the eyes of the law, it can help a judge ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes if your will is deemed invalid for some reason.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

You can use your HPA to nominate your spouse or family member to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become physically or mentally incapacitated. It is important that you choose a person who understands you, shares your views, and would likely recommend a course of action you would agree with.

Beneficiary Designation Forms

Beneficiary designation forms allow you to name beneficiaries. Make sure to name primary and contingent beneficiaries on your insurance plans and 401(k) plan assets.

Johnston & Associates Law is a reputable law firm in Santa Rosa. Our experienced attorneys help individuals and businesses navigate the complexities of different types of law. To talk to an estate planning attorney in Santa Rosa, call (707) 545-6542.