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3 estate planning documents beyond a will

Your estate planning may start with a will, but you may not necessarily want to let it end there. You have many more options. One of the most common is a trust, which allows you to leave money to the trust -- rather than putting it into your will -- and then letting the trust pay out to your heirs.

Estate planning really is flexible. You can create a plan that fits your needs and your family. Besides a will and a trust, here are three different documents you may want to consider:

  • A health care proxy: With this, you choose a trusted person -- usually a family member -- and give them the legal power to make medical decisions for you if you can't do it on your own.
  • A living will: In this document, you simply list your desires about medical treatments, which are typically used to intervene in a life-threatening situation. For instance, you may say that you do not want to be kept on life support or that you do want to be resuscitated if possible.
  • A power of attorney: Outside of medical decisions, you may have legal and financial decisions that have to be made if you are incapacitated. With a power of attorney, you give someone else the authority to take these actions on your behalf so that they can do things like access your bank account, pay your medical bills or pay your taxes.

The key, with estate planning, is simply to consider what you and your family need the most and then to look into all of the legal options that you have.

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