An estate plan consists of one or more documents that set forth instructions. Some documents are used to control health care decisions, others control your property in the event of your incapacity, and still other documents will control the distribution of your property in the event of your death.
The first thing that must be decided is who you would like to appoint as your attorney-in-fact to make health care decisions and as your attorney-in-fact to handle your financial affairs. They may be the same person or persons, or different people on each document. Two people may be appointed to make decisions together on your behalf, or you may choose to have alternates.
Next, it must be decided who you would like to inherit your estate, also called beneficiaries, and in what shares under your last will and testament or trust. Consideration should also be given as to how the beneficiaries receive their inheritance. Should everyone receive his or her entire bequest in one sum, or should some individuals receive distributions over time? Also, if you have concerns about creditors or saving estate taxes for a beneficiary, it may be beneficial to leave bequests in further trusts for beneficiaries. As part of your last will and testament you must also appoint a personal representative or co-personal representatives who will administer your estate. This includes hiring an attorney to represent the estate, collecting your assets, paying your debts and taxes and distributing your assets to the beneficiaries. If you create a trust then you must appoint a trustee or co-trustees who will make discretionary distributions of income and principal to your loved ones.