Typical Estate Planning Documents

A typical estate plan is comprised of the following documents.  However, other custom documents may be required to meet specific lifetime planning goals.


Wills are the easily understood estate planning instrument.  However, for some reason, only about 50% of people have a will in place.  Your will takes effect upon your death, and directs that your money and property be distributed to the beneficiaries of your choice according to a plan that you determine now.  You can use a will to make gifts to friends and family, to make charitable donations upon your death, or to “pour over” your estate into a trust.


A trust is the cornerstone of most estate plans.  A trust can be created while you are living (a “revocable” or “living” trust) or through your will (a “testamentary” trust).  A trust is more expensive to draft and implement than a will, and can be somewhat burdensome to fund and administer, but can also save you significant time and probate costs and better protects your privacy in the event of your death or incompetence.

Advance Health Care Directives

An AHCD gives your named health care agent the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of making those decisions on your own.  The authority granted can be broad, or you can provide specific directives (i.e. DNR orders, life-sustaining efforts, funeral preferences, organ donation, etc.) or some combination in between.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney gives your named agent the authority to act on your behalf in financial transactions.  The authority granted can be broad or limited to certain types of transactions (i.e. real property, bank accounts, etc.).  Powers of attorney can become effective immediately or they can “spring” into effect only upon the event of your incapacity.

Lisa Fiance, Esq. is a licensed California attorney and owner of Epiphany ADR.  We specialize in estate planning, family law and mediation. If you have questions, or to schedule a free consultation, call us at (760) 201-5637.


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