More than a Will is required

Deborah L. Jacobs, who writes for Forbes on estate planning issues, provides the following advice for what should be on the list:

1. Confirm that you have a durable power of attorney appointing a family member, friend or adviser as an agent to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters if you become physically or mentally unable to.

2. Be sure you have all the basic estate planning documents to leave your assets to the people or charities that you wish to benefit.

3. If you have a spouse or partner, or dependent children, provide for them financially.

4. Name a guardian for children who are minors or have special needs and leave funds for them in a trust in case something happens to you.

5. Make sure that beneficiary designation forms, which cover retirement assets, name both primary and alternate beneficiaries. Do not name your estate as beneficiary that could cause your heirs to lose important income tax benefits.

6. Watch out for the separate estate tax that about half the states have. It applies not only if you live in one of these states, but also if you own real estate there.

7. Use trusts as needed. For many people the focus is on non-tax purposes they can serve: to hold money for minors, forestall spendthrift family members or protect assets from former spouses or creditors.

 Jay Lashlee, True Trust Book by Jay Lashlee