Preparing an estate plan is an act of kindness. You are creating a road-map for your family. That road map tells them how to dispose of your possessions and assets. It also includes guidelines for your care if you become incapacitated. In times of crisis, having a road-map helps family members make difficult choices.

The basic components of an estate plan are:

Will: The most well-known of an estate planning tools, a will can ensure that your property is dispersed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are provided for as you intended.

Trusts: A trust is a legal entity that is able to own property and other assets. A revocable living trust can be used to remove property and assets from the probate procedure, reduce estate taxes, preserve privacy and manage financial affairs.

Power of Attorney: This legal document gives an agent the power to act on your behalf in financial and designated matters.

Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: This document declares your wishes pertaining to life-sustaining procedure when in a terminal or persistent vegetative state. The Power of Attorney may be effective when you are unable to communicate rationally and gives your agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf as specified.

Ethical Will: This is not a legal document. It is usually a letter addressed to a specific audience, such as a child or family member. It is a simple yet powerful way to communicate values and intentions.

If you have ever had the responsibility of care-giving for an elderly family member or the handling of the family estate, you know the value of having a road-map.

An estate plan may not be a glamorous gift, but it is a valuable gift… a gift of love.

You may want to consult an estate planning attorney and financial advisor in the preparation of these documents.