We find that, for most people, the basic estate planning process can be fairly straightforward and somewhat painless. The anticipation of it seems to be much worse than the reality and it is something clients are relieved to check off their lists once they get it addressed. There’s no question that it’s something every adult should engage in, at least once, and as far in advance of the time when the plan will be needed, as may be possible.

The core process involves making decisions about where your assets go at death (i.e., deciding who gets what) and who will be in charge of getting them safely to your beneficiaries (i.e., selecting fiduciaries). It also involves planning for your potential incapacity or unavailability, and deciding who will have authority to make decisions for you about health care and financial matters, as your agent, when you remain living but unable to handle such affairs on your own, for one reason or another. If you have children under 18, an additional key matter to address is identifying a guardian of the person to raise your children if both parents die before a child attains the age of majority, which currently remains age 18.