Do you have a full estate plan in place? 

If you don’t, you’re not alone. More than half of Americans don’t have the essential documents that go into an estate plan.

An estate plan includes essential documents (like a will and a living trust) that will let your family know what should happen to everything you own once you die. So if you’re in the half of Americans who don’t have a plan, it’s time to get one started. 

No one wants to think about a time when they won’t be around, but if you pass away without an estate plan, your family might face a lengthy legal battle over who gets your different assets. 

Keep reading to get a full estate planning guide that will help you get started. 

Your Estate Planning Guide 

Estate planning can get complicated, depending on how many different assets you have. Some people will probably need legal advice to make sure they’ve covered everything. 

To help you get started, here are four things you need to do when you’re planning your estate: 

1. Get Legal Counsel 

The estate planning process can get tricky, so you should meet with an estate lawyer to help you along the process. Getting legal counsel might seem expensive and unnecessary, but they’ll be more familiar with estate laws and the many different regulations that go along with these documents. 

2. Decide Who Gets What 

After you’ve met with a lawyer to discuss your situation, you’ll need to breakdown everything that you own and decide who gets what. These items will include everything from your liquid assets (cash), stocks, properties, material objects and more. 

You’ll also need to decide when people get certain things. For example, you might want to leave money to your children or grandchildren, but not give them access to it until they turn 18 or reach another important milestone. 

3. Write Your Will

Your last will is a document that is going to detail everything you want to happen after you die. It’ll include funeral wishes, who get what items from your estate and how debts and taxes will be handled after you die. It will also name official guardians for your children and determine who will care for your pets. 

This document needs to be thorough. Anything that you leave out of your will could lead to a lengthy court battle for your family once you’ve passed away. 

4. Establish Power of Attorney 

Sometimes accidents will happen, and although you’re not dead, you can’t make decisions for yourself. This scenario is why you need to establish power of attorney. The person who has power of attorney over you can make medical or financial decisions for you if you’re not able to yourself. 

5. Keep Your Documents Safe 

Once you’re finished the steps above, make sure you keep all the documents in your estate plan in a safe place. Protect the papers from disasters like fire, floods and burglaries, and keep a digital copy on your computer as well. 

Name a trusted person who will have access to these documents. Your will won’t do your family any good if no one can find it after you die. 

Learn More About The Estate Planning Process 

This estate planning guide is a good place to get started, but you’ll probably need to do more research, or you’ll still have some unanswered questions. Again, it’s recommended that you seek legal advice to get an estate plan that works for you and to make sure you don’t forget anything