It's never too early to begin planning for the efficient transfer and distribution of your assets, but it can be too late. A very high percentage of people - even retirees - don't have estate plans or the essential estate planning documents to help their heirs with the settling of their estate.

Here are the four documents that every adult should have:

  • A Will- This legal document establishes an Executor who will manage your estate after passing, who will get your belongings, and, if applicable, who will become guardian of your minor children. Die without a will and the state will make these decisions for your remaining family members.
  • Durable Power of Attorney- This document delegates the power to legally handle your financial affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated. Without this, no one may be able to access your bank accounts, investment accounts such as IRA's, or any other property in your name without lengthy legal proceedings.
  • Advance Directive- is a catch-all term that refers to health care directives, living wills and health care power of attorney (Minnesota combines the living will and the durable power of attorney for health care in the same form). These documents allow you to direct the type of care you want and name a spouse or other trusted relative to make health care decisions for you in case you are incapable of doing so on your own.
  • Letter of Instructions- this is a informal document that gives your survivors information concerning important financial and personal matters that must be attended to after your passing. It can clarify any special requests to be carried out upon death and give direction to your loved ones and your personal representative as to how you wish your affairs to be handled.