5 Basic Estate Planning Documents You Should Have

basic estate planning documents

Estate planning documents are more than just a legal necessity. They’re a crucial step in ensuring your assets and healthcare preferences are respected, whether due to incapacity or passing. Regardless of your age, wealth level, or relationship status, having a solid estate plan is essential.

At Guardian Litigation Group, we specialize in tailoring estate planning solutions that safeguard your legacy and care for your loved ones. Here, we’ll explore the five key estate planning documents you absolutely need, highlighting their significance and how our team can guide you every step of the way.

Understanding the Essentials: Estate Planning Documents You Need

Before diving into the specifics of your estate plan, it’s important to understand the essential documents that form its backbone. These documents ensure your wishes are respected and your loved ones are protected. Let’s start with 5 of the most crucial components:

1. Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is not just a document; it’s a powerful tool that forms the cornerstone of any comprehensive estate plan. It serves as your voice, expressing your desires for how your assets should be distributed upon your death. Whether you have substantial wealth or modest possessions, a Will ensures that your assets go to the individuals or organizations you choose.

Recent findings from the 2024 Wills and Estate Planning Study by highlight the critical role of a Will in estate planning. Despite a 6% decline in overall estate planning and a 16% decrease among lower-income Americans, the study found that young adults aged 18-34 are increasingly recognizing the importance of having a Will. 

This demographic is the only age group that has not seen a decline in estate planning rates since 2020, underscoring the growing awareness among younger generations of the importance of early estate planning. 

Furthermore, the study reveals that 14% more Americans now acknowledge the absence of a Will due to perceived insufficient assets, compared to 2023, highlighting a significant gap in estate planning education and awareness.

More than just asset distribution, a last will and testament allows you to nominate an executor. This trusted individual or entity will oversee the process of settling your estate, ensuring that your instructions are followed accurately and efficiently. The role of the executor is crucial, as they handle everything from paying off debts and taxes to distributing assets to your beneficiaries.

For those with minor children or pets, a Will is indispensable. It enables you to appoint guardians who will care for your loved ones in your absence. This appointment provides peace of mind, knowing that your children or pets will be in the hands of someone you trust.

2. Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is a flexible way to handle your assets while you’re alive and after you pass away. It helps keep your estate out of probate, keeps things private, and can be changed if your life changes. 

With the estate and gift tax exemptions going up to $13.61 million per person in 2024, using a revocable living trust for managing and protecting your assets is even more beneficial. This is an increase from $12.92 million in 2023, allowing you to improve your estate planning and protect your assets from future taxes while making it easier to pass them on to your beneficiaries.

At Guardian Litigation Group, we help you set up and fund a trust that fits your needs and goals. This gives you and your beneficiaries peace of mind and can save you time and money on legal fees. 

With the new exemption amounts for 2024, we focus on not just creating a trust but also reviewing and possibly updating your estate plan to match the latest tax laws. This proactive approach ensures that your estate plan meets your current needs and takes advantage of favorable conditions, providing better protection and benefits for your beneficiaries.

3. Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney lets you choose someone to handle your money matters if you can’t do it yourself. This is really important to make sure your finances are taken care of the way you want. As we go through the year, planning ahead for your finances is becoming increasingly important, especially with all the changes happening in estate planning and money matters.

Recent studies, such as the 2024 Wills and Estate Planning Study by, have highlighted a general decline in estate planning, particularly among lower-income Americans. But having a durable power of attorney is still super important. It ensures someone you trust can keep managing your money, which is especially important when you become incapacitated. This is really important for protecting your money and helping your family who might need it.

At Guardian Litigation Group, we’re here to help you pick someone you trust to handle your finances and make a clear plan for what they can do. With all the changes in 2024, we’re not just making a durable power of attorney but ensuring it fits well with your whole estate plan. We know it’s important to keep up with new laws and financial changes, so we make sure your estate plan is strong and flexible.

4. Advance Healthcare Directive

An advance healthcare directive, including a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, ensures your healthcare wishes are followed if you can’t speak for yourself. This important estate planning document names a healthcare agent to make choices for you and tells doctors what kind of medical care you want. As we move through the year, it’s clear that having these directives is important for managing your healthcare and making your own choices.

The way healthcare is changing, along with what we’ve learned from recent studies on estate planning, shows why Advance Healthcare Directives are needed. They give you and your loved ones peace of mind and ensure your healthcare wishes are known and followed. With so many new medical treatments and options available, having a clear plan for your healthcare is very important.

At Guardian Litigation Group, we help you say what you want for your healthcare and choose someone you trust to make decisions. Our goal is to ensure your healthcare wishes are respected, especially with all the changes in healthcare. We give you personalized advice to help you make the best choices for your healthcare future.

5. Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations on things like life insurance and retirement accounts are a simple but important part of estate planning. These designations let your assets go directly to the people you choose, without going through the probate process. This makes it easier and faster to give your assets to your beneficiaries. In 2024, as things change in the financial world and in your personal life, it’s really important to keep these designations up to date.

With changes in tax laws and the increase in estate and gift tax exemptions to $13.61 million per person in 2024, it’s clear that you need to look at your estate plan and make sure it fits with the current financial situation. Beneficiary designations are a key part of this, helping you manage and pass on your wealth in a way that works with these new rules.

At Guardian Litigation Group, our lawyers work with you to check your financial accounts and make sure your beneficiary designations are current and fit well with your overall estate plan. We consider how recent changes in laws and finances affect your estate plan. We aim to give you complete support that fits with the estate planning needs of this year, making sure your assets are given out the way you want and that you get the most tax benefits possible.

Guardian Litigation Group Estate Planning Services

At Guardian Litigation Group, we understand the importance of a well-structured estate plan. Our estate planning services are designed to provide comprehensive protection for your assets and peace of mind for you and your loved ones. 

  1. Comprehensive Protection: Our services provide thorough protection for your assets, ensuring peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. We cover all aspects of estate planning to secure your legacy.
  2. Essential Document Drafting: We assist in the creation of crucial estate planning documents, including Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Healthcare Directives, tailored to your specific needs.
  3. Complex Strategy Guidance: Our team offers expert advice on sophisticated estate planning strategies, helping you navigate the complexities of tax implications, asset protection, and wealth transfer.
  4. Experienced Attorneys: With access to seasoned attorneys, you’ll have the support you need to confidently move through the estate planning process, from initial consultation to final implementation.
  5. Personalized Approach: We ensure that your estate plan is a reflection of your unique circumstances and objectives, providing a customized solution that aligns with your vision for the future.
  6. High Level of Service: Our commitment to excellence means delivering the highest level of service and expertise, ensuring that your estate planning experience is seamless and effective.

Our personalized approach ensures that your estate plan reflects your unique situation and goals. We’re committed to providing you with the highest level of service and expertise.

Estate Planning Essentials: Wrapping It Up

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy; it’s a vital process for anyone who wants to ensure their wishes are honored, and their loved ones are protected. By having these five basic estate planning documents in place, you can achieve peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order. Contact Guardian Litigation Group today to learn more about our estate planning services and how we can assist you in securing your legacy.