Estate planning is not only for the super-rich, or even just moderately wealthy individuals. Wills, medical directives and trusts accomplish many things. Whether you need to set up a guardianship for your children or obtain peace of mind for future health care decisions in the event you are incapacitated, estate planning is now a versatile and straightforward way to manage end-of-life planning.

A Basic Will

Wills are a good way to divide your assets upon death. However, that is not their only function. People who die without a will (called dying "intestate") have their assets given to a spouse or the nearest living relatives according to state law. Even if this is what you want, a will can let you give certain possessions, such as family heirlooms, to those who would most appreciate the specific property. Obtaining a will allows for much greater control of your assets after death.

But most importantly, a will can let you dictate who will care for your children in the event you pass away. Do you want your children to be cared for by your parents, or your spouse's parents? If by a sibling, which one? By naming a guardian in your will, you can be assured that someone you trust will take care of your children.

Health Care Decisions

Living wills and medical directives allow people to express their health care wishes in the event they are incapacitated. Putting yourself on life support or removing artificial means of keeping you alive are important considerations, and having a living will can help your family or named health care agent to decide health care matters in accordance with your wishes.


Trusts are excellent estate planning tools that provide for a detailed plan to care for loved ones. For example, a special-needs trust can provide for a child with disabilities, even after he or she turns eighteen years of age. Many individuals without a large estate, but with special-needs children, will use an insurance policy to fund a special-needs trust that will make it easier for that child to obtain life-enhancing services provided with funds from the trust.

Only an estate planning and guardianship attorney can help you to determine a personalized estate plan that works for you. If you are currently without a plan to take care of a child or special-needs relative in the event you cannot, consult an attorney right away.

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