Anyone who wants to make sure that their intended beneficiaries receive their estate’s assets after passing away should develop a comprehensive and effective estate plan. Failing to do so can have serious consequences for your heirs. It can result in your assets not being distributed as you desire.

There are 6 essential items which everyone should have in their estate plan in order to ensure effective wealth management and distribution of assets to heirs.


Your estate plan should include a will, unless you are using a trust-based estate planning strategy, which we will delve into later. A will is a legal document which provides instructions on what should be done with your assets and how you would like them distributed after you have passed away.  Generally, the will indicates the individual or entity that you wish to have the responsibility of dealing with your assets in accordance with the will.

This legal document can also name your preferred guardian for any minor children you have. You can even give guardianship of your pets to a specific person as well.


Instead of using a will, many people prefer to use a trust instead. This is a legal document which creates a fiduciary duty for another person or entity to possess the title to your assets for the benefit of your intended heirs. This party that has the fiduciary duty is known as the trustee while your heirs are referred to as the beneficiaries.

One of the main reasons women decide to use a trust is for various tax benefits. However, there are many different ways to design a trust and you should make sure you fully understand the implications of how you decide to craft the terms of the trust.

Life insurance policy

Including life insurance in your estate plan can give your beneficiaries an extra financial boost and can even help to pay for funeral costs and other expenses related to your passing away. A life insurance policy is basically a legal contract between you and an insurance company in which the company agrees to pay out a lump sum of cash to your chosen beneficiaries in exchange for you paying monthly premiums while you are alive. The lump sum of cash will be paid out upon your death.

Beneficiary designations

Life insurance policies, investment accounts and retirement accounts will oftentimes request that you specify beneficiary designations. This legal documentation names who should receive the assets in the account or the lump sum payments from the insurance company. Keep the beneficiary designation documents, which you should be reviewing and updating regularly, with the rest of your estate planning documents. 

Durable power of attorney

This legal document specifies the person or entity which should be in charge of making legal and financial decisions for you in the case of your incapacitation.

Medical power of attorney

The medical power of attorney is a legal document which names an individual or entity to be responsible for making healthcare and medical decisions on your behalf if you end up incapacitated.

Customized estate planning strategy

Everyone’s situation is different which means exactly how your estate planning documents are designed should be customized to fit your own needs and circumstances. A professional financial advisor service can provide guidance on the best way to proceed.

The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation.

Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James.  Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.  Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.