The five basic elements of an estate plan

Estate Planning Lawyer

When you are estate planning, any good estate planning lawyer is going to tell you that the general estate plan has five key elements. Those key elements are will, trust, power of attorney, health care or medical directive and a beneficiary designation. But you may not know all of these elements are, and that’s okay because not everyone has experienced estate planning. The estate planning lawyers available in various law firms such as Johnston Martineau PLLP are here to help you and ensure that you understand every step to your estate planning journey.


The will is known as a legally binding document, often telling people in your family who gets what and how you want to be buried. There is a little bit more to a will, as it not only helps to ensure that the people you want to receive your property and assets after you die do so, but it names somebody as an executor and this is the person that is going to ensure all of the directions of your will are followed. A will is also going to name guardians who will care for minor children and other people who are dependent upon you, it is your legacy. This is probably the most straightforward and well-known step of the estate planning process.


This is perhaps the second most well-known part of the estate planning process, however people often believe that trusts are only for the rich and famous. This is not true, and by the legal definition of a trust it is the legal arrangement through which a trustee holds legal title to property on the behalf of somebody that was designated to inherit but may be too young or otherwise incapacitated.

The person that is setting up a trust is allowed to dictate how and winter beneficiaries can receive the assets in the trust. This means if you really wanted to ensure that your adult child with a mental disability continues to receive an allowance for the rest of their life, you could set up a trust that they are not allowed to access but they receive money from the trust at the same time and of the same amount every month.

There are different kinds of trust however there are two very basic types of trusts and those are revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust is one that allows you to control the asset with the freedom to change the terms at any time whereas the other type of trust is not. Once you give your funds to that trust, it is no longer your funding.

Power of attorney

This is the person who is designated to step in and help you manage your affairs if you become ill, incapacitated or die. This is somebody who is going to make financial decisions, they are going to conduct business meetings if needed and more.

Medical directive

This is somebody who is similar to the power of attorney however they only choose your medical healthcare coverage and how that is dealt with when you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. In a healthcare directive there are two documents, a living will and a healthcare proxy which allows for your will to be followed by your living proxy.

Beneficiary designation

Upon creating an estate plan you are most likely hoping to have your funds and assets go to family. When you designate these guys as your beneficiaries, it is going to supersede what is in your will therefore you want to make sure your will follows your beneficiary plans.

If you have any questions about estate planning, please reach out to an estate planning lawyer.

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