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A strong estate plan should express your wishes clearly to your family and estate administrators. This not only protects your own interests but it also helps to spare your loved ones any unnecessary conflict or aggravation while they are already dealing with a situation that causes them pain and grief.

The elements required for a strong estate plan depend somewhat on your situation. There are basic elements that every estate plan should include. However, if your situation is more complex, you may need additional estate planning documents.

Basic estate planning documents

The most basic estate planning documents are a will and an advance directive. An advance directive gives instruction about the type of medical treatment you do or do not want to receive in the event that an injury or illness robs you of the ability to make such decisions for yourself. It takes effect when you become incapacitated and remains in force until you either recover your decision-making abilities or pass away.

When you do eventually die, your will takes effect. It describes what you want to happen to your property, which includes your pets, after your death. It allows you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any.

Additional estate planning documents

For some people, a simple will and an advance directive are all an estate plan requires. However, if you have a more complex estate, you may also want to consider trust creation. There are many types of trusts that serve different purposes, such as protecting certain assets from debt collectors, providing for a family member in need or giving substantial support to a charitable cause.