Estate Planning 101

Estate Planning 101 

What is Estate Planning?

Your estate consists of all the assets you own. Estate planning is the systematic process of anticipating and arranging for the management and disposal of one’s assets. However, estate planning isn't truly about things. It's about people. At the heart of estate planning, people aren't as concerned about what happens to their assets, they are more concerned about what will happen to their family. 


Proper estate planning allows you to: 

  1. Preserve your estate for your loved one and stay in control for as long as possible; 
  2. Direct who is going to receive your estate, including when and how much your beneficiaries will receive; and, 
  3. Avoid unnecessary taxes, fees and commissions. 

Why should you have an Estate Plan?

Even if you do nothing you have an estate plan, just not a very good one. According to one author, over half of the adult population has opted for this approach and done nothing. By not creating your own plan you simply force the legal system to distribute your wealth. Every state has statutes on how to distribute property when a person dies “intestate”, meaning without a will. 


The question then, is not whether you will have an estate plan, but whether you will have a cost effective estate plan of your own selection, or a costly estate plan imposed upon you by law. 

Two Types of Estate Plans

  1. Last Will and Testament - a Will is a legal document that outlines the wishes for the administration and division of an estate after passing.
  2. Revocable Living Trust - a Trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. It is a legal document that is traditionally used for avoiding probate and minimizing estate taxes. Like a Will, it outlines the wishes for the administration and division of an estate plan.  

To learn more about the differences between a Will and a Trust, visit this support page

So what Estate Plan is right for you? 

Using the estate planning portal, the first few questions in the online interview determine which documents are appropriate given your unique circumstances. You will fall into one of two general categories

If you have ….

Assets (< $50k)

Minor Children

Real Property

… you need




Revocable Living Trust




Simple Will

In addition to their core documents, every estate plan includes:

  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney