Important Estate Documents Having certain legal documents in place can provide a roadmap that your heirs can follow. It is important to keep these documents up-to-date and in a secure location that is known to family members and/or trusted professionals. A last will and testament is a good start, but it won’t prevent your estate from going through the probate process, which can be expensive and time-consuming for heirs. Here are some of the documents that typically make up an estate plan. Power of Attorney Gives someone of your choosing the authority to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. A durable power of attorney designates someone to act on your behalf even in the event that you become disabled or incapacitated. A medical power of attorney gives someone the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Last Will and Testament Provides instructions detailing how you want your estate to be distributed. Contracts The assets in life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and retirement plans will pass directly to the beneficiaries you have designated on the account beneficiary forms, superseding instructions in a will. These assets typically are not subject to probate. Trust Enables you to specify how and when assets in the trust should be distributed after your death. Assets in a trust may avoid probate and possibly estate taxes. A trust can also be used to provide for a dependent with special needs and to make a substantial contribution to your favorite charitable organization. Living Will Differs from a standard will in that it outlines which medical procedures you will allow in the event of a debilitating or chronic illness. It is often used to authorize termination of artificial life support in the event of terminal illness. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax professionals before implementing such strategies. There are initial costs and ongoing expenses associated with the creation andmaintenance of trusts.