Estate Planning gives you the opportunity, while you are alive and well, to plan for serious illness and death. Even the most basic estate requires a general durable power of attorney to authorize someone you trust to take over your financial affairs in the event of your mental or physical disability. Another essential document is an Advanced Directive which gives you the opportunity to make decisions, and appoint a representative regarding end of life decisions. Another document allows you to decide who makes decisions over the disposition of your remains to avoid family disputes.
For the modest estate without unusual circumstances, a Will is generally the instrument of choice. It allows you to determine who will handle your estate, and who will receive your net estate. It can also contain trust provisions to allow a trustee (often a family member) to manage funds for the beneficiary (often a young or disabled relative) through minority, the college years, or for a lifetime.
For larger and more complicated estates, Trusts may be required. Trusts can be used for a variety of purposes. The most popular trust is a revocable living trust used by a married couple. It allows the couple to leave twice the personal lifetime federal tax exemption without substantial loss of control over their assets. For large estates, this can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal estate tax savings (and savings in state estate taxes as well). Further, while Trusts are more expensive to draft and fund than simple wills, they need not go through the probate process, which can save the estate substantial sums as well.