diy-estate-planning

3 minute read

DIY Estate Planning: A Guide to Estate Planning Documents Online

Learn what an estate plan is, the exact documents that must be included to create one, and how to move forward with DIY estate planning in this guide.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

The importance of Estate Planning cannot be understated. But, what many people don’t know is that the way you create your Estate Planning documents is crucial as well. When it comes to DIY Estate Planning there are a few things you should keep in mind. 

First and foremost, it is critical to take the necessary steps to ensure your Estate Plan is legally valid, and that the right people know how to access your documents. Below we will discuss how to create your Estate Planning documents online and review how we can help you get started, from the comfort of your own home. 

  • What is an Estate Plan? 

  • How do I make an Estate Plan? 

  • Start your Estate Plan online with Trust & Will 

What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is a set of legal documents, including a Last Will and Testament, outlining how to distribute one’s belongings after death and providing instructions on final wishes. Estate Plans can be as simple as a Will or as complex as a Will and multiple Trusts, it all depends on the legal and financial needs of the person.

Estate Plans often contain instructions on how to handle end-of-life medical care, guardianship information for children and pets, and methods to access financial accounts and assets. Many individuals will also include how to access various personal devices and financial accounts within their Estate Plans as well. 

There are numerous tax benefits and other legal matters that Estate Planning can assist with as well. If you are interested in learning more about what Estate Planning includes, be sure to read our guide. 

What Documents Are Needed for Estate Planning?

The documents needed for Estate Planning will vary slightly from person to person, depending on their personal, financial, and legal needs. While there is some flexibility, here are some of the most important documents to include when making an Estate Plan: 

  1. Will and Trust

  2. Beneficiary Designations

  3. Letter of Intent

  4. Guardianship Designations

  5. Power Of Attorney

A Will and/or Trust are the two main components of an Estate Plan. These legal instruments will provide instructions for your financial assets and property. The wording of both a Will and Trust are important, and both should be consistent in how they distribute assets. 

Beneficiary Designations outline how and when certain assets are distributed to family members and loved ones. They are most commonly used in life insurance policies and retirement accounts and allows the named individual to inherit the asset. It is recommended to include contingent beneficiaries as well to safeguard your wishes. 

A Letter of Intent is used to define your final wishes and is specially written to an Executor or Beneficiary. This is where some individuals choose to specify funeral and burial arrangements. Letters of Intent do not have the same legal validity as a Will or Trust, but they can clarify your final wishes for loved ones and probate court. 

Trust & Will now offers probate help. Learn more about our different plan option, today.

Guardianship Designations specify a legal guardian for your children in the event you (and/or your spouse) pass away. Without these designations, the court would step in to decide who to place your children with. While it is most often a close family member, in extreme cases your children could be placed with the state. 

A Power of Attorney designates an individual to step in and make legal or medical decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so. There are a few different types of Power of Attorney that include different legal rights and responsibilities. It is important to review the limitations of each role and nominate an individual that you trust to manage these responsibilities. 

How Do I Make an Estate Plan?

The process of making an Estate Plan is much less complicated than many people anticipate. Instead of meeting with expensive lawyers, you can actually start an Estate Plan directly from the comfort of your own home. There are a myriad of online Estate Planning providers, with options and services prepared to meet your needs. 

The first step in creating an Estate Plan is to inventory your various properties and assets with your spouse. This includes taking stock of any bank accounts, retirement funds, investments, real estate, and personal belongings. In doing so, you can gain a better understanding of what you need to plan for and distribute. 

At this time it’s also smart to note any debts or outstanding loans that you hold. These will need to be settled during probate, making it important to set aside funds in your Estate Plan. Write out any accounts, memberships, credit cards, or other financial obligations. 

After you have a better idea of the assets and debts you need to manage, start thinking about possible candidates for an Executor or Trustee. These roles are crucial to ensuring your wishes are followed, so think about people that you know and Trust -- or consider hiring a professional to handle the responsibilities. Parents may also want to spend time thinking about possible guardians to name for children as well. 

Many Estate Planning requirements, such as what makes a Will legal, are regulated on a state level. For this reason, it can be helpful to review your state-specific laws after gathering your personal information to ensure you know what needs to be included -- and how to format your documents. 

These steps will help as you navigate the Estate Planning process, and can also be used to identify tax forward strategies as you manage your affairs. You can then begin creating your Estate Planning documents online with the help of a provider. 

Start Your Estate Planning Documents Online with Trust & Will

Consider creating your Estate Planning documents online with our help at Trust & Will. As the leading digital Estate Planning platform in the US, we can help you create your documents from the comfort of your own home. 

If you don’t know where to start, take our online quiz and we can help match you up with the right Estate Planning documents for your needs. Our expert team will be on standby to answer any questions you have and to point out various options. 

From start to finish, the process takes just 15 minutes on average to complete. We will then provide complimentary shipping of the original documents, and online access to copies as well. The finished product will be state-specific and reflect all of your wishes. 

DIY Estate Planning has become increasingly common in recent years, especially as our daily lives move more and more online. It’s important to keep state requirements in mind as you begin receiving your final wishes and taking stock of your assets and property. At Trust & Will, we want to make creating an Estate Plan easier than ever by providing an entirely digital service with specialized support. Reach out to our team today and learn how to get started.

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