Estate planning has two parts:
Creating a plan for the management of your assets while you are living; and
Leaving instructions for the management of your assets after your death.
Much of estate planning is actually financial planning, which happens outside the legal realm. The first step of estate planning is making a list of your income, your assets, and your debts. You need to know which assets and debts are joint, and which are owned individually. A thorough plan includes a close examination of your savings, to determine which assets you may need for self-support as well as a look at any highly appreciated assets.
The next step is working with me to develop an estate plan that meets your goals. I also prepare the documents you need to implement the plan. The basic components of an estate plan are a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy, a HIPAA waiver, and a will. Plans may vary in complexity, but nearly all estate plans will have those 4 documents. A trust is often used in addition to a will.
The durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and HIPAA waiver are used to name trusted surrogates who can act on your behalf when needed. By contrast, the will is only used after death and has no bearing on asset management during your life. A trust can perform both functions: a trustee manages your trust assets while you are living and then distributes your assets to beneficiaries after your death.
Depending on the circumstances, planning for medicaid long-term care can also become a part of estate planning. Here the primary goal is eligibility with an eye to preserving wealth when possible. I help clients navigate this process and I also prepare the associated documents.