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Do you want to talk to a lawyer about your estate planning needs?

You may have a unique situation or have specific questions about what is right for you and your family. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
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  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have children from a previous relationship or a child with special needs?

There are special considerations to make if you have a blended family or a child with special needs. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Okay! You’re good at this.

Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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Do you have pets?

If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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Okay! We’re making great progress.

Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Noted! Just a few more questions.

Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

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Sounds good! We’re almost done.

Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Sounds good! We’re almost done.

Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

How To Finalize Your Estate Plan

Think of an estate plan as an ongoing project that changes as your life changes. It’s never the wrong time to strategize for the management and transfer of your estate after your death, but certain major life events — like marriage, the birth of a child, or a death in the family — can move it to the top of the to-do list.

Table of Contents

A well-thought-out estate plan determines who will eventually receive your assets. It identifies the legal instruments that you will use to accomplish this, like a will and/or trusts.

Although it is stressful to consider these matters, finalizing an estate plan can bring a sense of security for both you and your family.

Essential Parts of an Estate Plan

Since every person’s life is different, every estate plan is different as well. Your estate plan will depend on the assets you own, the persons you wish to benefit, the laws of the state in which you live, and your objectives.

Most estate plans include one or more of these documents:

  • Will: A document that sets out who you wish to receive your assets when you die and can name a guardian for minor children and an executor to manage the probate process.
  • Trust: A written agreement in which you, the grantor, gives a second person, the trustee, the authority to hold certain assets on behalf of a third person or group of people, called the beneficiaries.
  • Power of attorneyA document giving a trusted individual the right to act in your place in financial or legal affairs. This is often called a POA.
  • Medical power of attorney: A document giving a trusted individual the right to make healthcare decisions for you if you are not able to do it yourself.
  • Living will: A document in which you set out your medical preferences, like end-of-life decisions, which the medical POA must follow. When you address the medical power of attorney and the living will in one document, it is sometimes called an advance health care directive.

Finalizing an Estate Plan

States establish rules for preparing and finalizing estate planning documents. Failure to follow these rules can invalidate these documents.

That means that Florida’s rules for how to finalize an estate planning document won’t necessarily be the same as the rules in California. And requirements for executing one document (e.g. requiring a notary for a will) may not apply to other estate planning documents.

Executing Estate Documents

“Executing” an estate planning document simply means signing it in the manner required by law. State laws often require some security steps to make sure there is no mistake or fraud involved, and that the person signing is not an imposter.

These laws on execution of estate planning documents vary from state to state and document to document.

  • You must sign estate planning documents in front of a notary in some states. For example, some states require this for a will, trust, and/or POA.
  • You must sign some estate documents in front of two adult witnesses in other states. These witnesses also sign the document. Some states require two witnesses, and some only require one.
  • In some states, those who will receive property or assets under a will cannot be witnesses for that will.

Always check to see what your state requires for a document before executing it. If you are using a statutory form provided by the state or a Bar Association, it will probably provide instructions on execution. If you are in doubt, consult an attorney.

Who To Notify About the Estate Plan

The great thing about estate plan documents like wills and trusts is that you can keep them private during your lifetime if you like. But this isn’t necessarily a good idea. If you feel that family members may object to the terms of the document and pressure you to change your decisions, you can keep the details quiet.

However, it is important to notify those who will playing key roles in administering the plan after you are gone. For example, if your will names a guardian for your minor children or an executor, ask these people to agree to serve in these roles before executing the documents. Likewise, anyone named as an attorney in fact in a POA or medical power of attorney should also be consulted early.

You may also wish to provide them with copies of the relevant documents. Many people give a copy to their attorney and to their spouse or closest family member. You definitely don’t want these documents getting lost or forgotten before going into effect.

Revisit your estate plan every few years and rewrite the documents as needed to address life changes and new circumstances. Don’t forget to hand out new copies of the old documents to those you have taken into your confidence.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

FindLaw Staff

Contributing Author

Bridget_Molitor_image

Reviewed by:

Bridget Molitor, J.D.

Managing Editor