Estate planning can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be. The best way to protect yourself and to ensure that all your bases are covered is to set up a consultation with an estate planning attorney and to meet with him or her regularly.

As your life changes, you may require more complex estate planning or you may need to update existing documents to reflect the addition of new or the removal of old beneficiaries, as an example.

Here are some of the most common estate planning documents you might encounter and what you need to know about them.

Up first is a basic will. It is certainly the estate planning document most people are familiar with, and for good reason. It is a great way to plan ahead for passing on your property and assets.  Another option you might want to consider is using a trust rather than a will. A trust is a great choice if you want to avoid probate or set up trusts for your children and grandchildren after you are gone.

Next is a durable power of attorney in which you name an agent to act on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Usually, this will cover the management of your financial affairs, but speak to your estate planning attorney about what powers you can list here.

A durable healthcare power of attorney can be used to give someone else the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes.

Finally, your beneficiary designation forms are powerful tools that you should be reviewing annually – at a minimum. You probably have a form for several different accounts, including your IRA, 401(k), and any life insurance policies. Confirm that the primary and alternate beneficiaries are what you want, and make sure the designation forms are with your important papers.

For more information about key estate planning documents you’re likely to need to know about, set up a meeting with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney today.

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