How to Start Estate Planning

As you begin your estate planning process, keep in mind that an estate plan is not a stand-alone document such as a will or trust. It is a combination of documents and plans you put in place according to your state laws to deal with your affairs and care for you and your loved ones as you age and eventually pass. If you need to create a plan for your future and are wondering “What documents do I need for estate planning?” this article will briefly describe 7 documents that will help you compile an effective estate plan.

The 7 Essential Estate Planning Documents

Some of the documents you need for estate planning are legal ones that you must sign in compliance with your state’s regulations, while others are more personal and outside the court’s domain. However, legally binding or not, each of these documents is necessary to an estate plan that will take care of you and your family.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person of your choosing the authority to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself.

Advance Medical Directive

An advance medical directive is a legal document that gives someone of your choosing the ability to make health care decisions in the event you become incapable of making them for yourself.

Last Will and Testament

Your will is a legal document stating how you wish your assets and property to be distributed at your death and who will receive custody of any minor children.

Ethical Will

Ethical wills are documents or recordings that communicate your legacy and last wishes. Though they don’t transfer physical assets, they are paramount to imparting what your values, experiences, and words of wisdom to both the world and the people closest to you once you’re gone.


Gifts and Memories List

The gifts and memories list, also referred to as a personal property memorandum, is where you assign specific personal items to certain people after your death.

Estate Guide and Inventory

Your estate guide and inventory list includes the details your executor and next of kin may need to know at your time of death, like where different accounts are located, computer passwords, who to contact for help with your estate, etc.

Any Record of Other Ways Your Assets Will Be Transferred

If you’ve used some other type of estate planning to transfer your assets at death, such as a trust or beneficiary designations, you’ll need an organized record of them so your personal representative will know how to administer your estate.

The Right Estate Planning Documents Will Give You Peace of Mind

Estate planning can feel like a necessary evil, and it’s easy to avoid doing it. However, once you know you have a plan in place that ensures you and your loved ones will be cared for, you will be amazed at your peace of mind as you face the future. The end-of-life documents we’ve described above will give you the confidence that:

  • You will be properly cared for as you age.
  • The right people will be making decisions for you and your estate when you are unable to do so.
  • Your family and close friends will know what to do for you when you need them.
  • Anyone you love will know exactly what you wanted to say or pass on to them.
  • You will have the ability to care for others even after your death.

What to Do Next: Create an Estate Plan with Relational Estate and Elder Law, PLC

A relational estate plan invites you to think beyond your money and assets. It’s about ending well and leaving your loved ones in the best position possible. With these documents, you’ll be able to give direction in your final days and after your death, which will ensure your care and will be an enormous help to your family.  Although each of our futures are uncertain, at Relational Estate and Elder Law, we believe our peace of mind doesn’t need to be. Click here to schedule your complimentary estate planning consultation so we can begin discussing how to create an estate plan that accomplishes your goals and addresses your individual needs.



Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate and Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years . While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill , and their four vibrant children.