When planning your future, you should think about your family and business and what happens if you are unable to make decisions. Careful estate planning can help assure that these needs are met.

An estate plan can assure that there are trusted agents to oversee and allocate your assets according to your wishes. If you are a business owner, you should have a more sophisticated and well-documented management and ownership succession plan.

An estate plan may have various components. A power of attorney authorizes an agent to make financial or healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated. Business owners may divide the power of attorney to appoint a person who is familiar with their business to make business decisions while family members are authorized to make non-business decisions.

If you have minor children, you should appoint a guardian in your will. This identifies a caregiver if something happens to you and their other parent.

There are also ways to assure that assets may pass through other means besides your will. Retirement plans, life insurance, annuities and some jointly owned property may be passed directly through beneficiary designations. There are also ways to minimize the amount of assets that must undergo probate.

You may also establish trusts for beneficiaries who are younger, have disabilities or may need credit or protection. Trusts can serve multi-generational beneficiaries.

A will or revocable trust should include specific directions about the transfer of your business after you die. A buy-sell agreement can be important if there are two or more busines owners.

Your estate plan may need periodic revision. A significant change in the estate’s size may require different disposition of your assets.

It may be necessary to name new executors, powers of attorney agents and guardians because they died, or you no longer want them to execute these powers. Your children, who were minors when you first planned your estate, may be adults and serve in some of these roles or as trustees. Your business leadership or structure may have changed and require an updated power of attorney for business assets.

Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and other events require revisions to your plan and designation of new beneficiaries.  You may also select charitable giving as part of your plan.

An attorney can help you achieve your goals. They can also draft documents that assure your needs are met.