You’ve probably heard that you should start creating an estate plan as soon as possible. For most, though, the thought of estate planning can be overwhelming. Where do you start? Do you even need an estate plan? Everyone can benefit from an estate plan, and we’ve made a guide to introduce you to the estate planning essentials that can protect your assets. 

estate planning guide

Go Through Your Assets

The first step to planning your estate is making a detailed list of all your assets. A common mistake many people make is thinking that they don’t have enough assets to form an estate plan. The truth is that no amount of assets is too much or too little to begin the planning process. This list should include assets you hold individually as well as jointly, such as bank accounts, investments, property, vehicles, and personal property like jewelry and heirlooms. Making a comprehensive list of assets and accounts is a good starting point to deciding how you want everything to be distributed. 

Create a Will

Many estate planning experts consider a will to be the most important component of an estate plan. The purpose of a will is to define your assets and how you want them distributed. Choose an executor that you trust to handle the distribution of your assets. Dying without a will leaves your assets intestate, which means that their distribution is left up to probate court. 

Form a Trust or Trusts

Trusts are another key piece of the estate planning puzzle. Like a will, trusts protect your assets and allow you to lay out how you want them handled. However, the main difference between wills and trusts is that wills take effect after you die, while many trusts can kick in while you’re still alive. Trusts help you plan for the unexpected while protecting your loved ones.

Designate Beneficiaries

When you create an estate plan, you choose which people or organizations get your assets after you die. Naming beneficiaries can help avoid a legal battle over your estate. Beneficiaries can be friends, family, or even charitable organizations. 

Name Power of Attorneys

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows someone to take action on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. There are several different types of POAs, including ones that name someone to pay your bills or make medical decisions on your behalf. Creating a POA isn’t right for everyone, but an estate planning attorney can help you decide if it would work for you. 

Plan for Taxes

Depending on the size of your estate, it may be subject to estate taxes after your death. Although there is no state estate or inheritance tax in Missouri, the federal government will tax estates over a certain amount. While taxes may not affect your estate, you should consult with an expert to become familiar with different potential tax burdens of your estate. 


Everyone’s situation is different, and there may be other parts of an estate plan that could be of great benefit to you. For example, if you have children, you may wish to name a guardian for any minor children if something should happen to you. Other documents you might consider include a health care directive, 

How a Missouri Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Your estate plan can be as simple or complex as you prefer. Creating a plan will benefit you, your family, and your loved ones after your death. An estate planning lawyer can walk you through the legal complexities of the different parts of your estate plan to ensure that your wishes are honored. Do you want to know more about how an estate planning attorney can make the process easier for you? Contact the Law Office of Mark Harford today to consult with a Missouri estate planning lawyer to learn more about how our experience and expertise in estate planning and Missouri law can help you.