Estate Planning Basics

An estate plan may sound as if it is something for people who are famous or wealthy. Actually, an estate plan is a legal arrangement for the distribution of your assets and belongings after your death. Every adult needs an estate plan, even if you do not have a huge bank account. An estate is another name for your assets. Everything you own, including your home, car, furniture, property, bank accounts, and anything else is all part of your estate. An experienced Mooresville estate attorney will assist you in developing an estate plan specifically for your needs.

There are several reasons to utilize an estate plan. You want to make sure that the items in your estate are distributed according to your wishes. It is also important to help beneficiaries inherit your estate with the least amount of taxes. In addition to the distribution of your assets, an estate plan may also include power of attorney should you become unable to handle your affairs.

What is Included in an Estate Plan?

There are some main documents that are often included in a comprehensive estate plan. You may want to include as many of them as is applicable to your specific situation.


The will is the most basic of all estate planning documents. It is often referred to as a last will and testament. A will provides the basic direction for how your assets are to be distributed and names your beneficiaries. It also may appoint an executor to oversee the will after your death. In addition to directing how your property is to be distributed, a will also names guardians for your minor children in case you pass away.

A will must be properly executed in order to be considered legal. If you die without a will in place your property and assets may not be distributed to your family or loved ones and your intentions will not be fulfilled. In some cases, your estate could even end up going to the state.


A trust is most commonly referred to as a living trust. A trust sets up a way for your loved ones to manage and obtain your assets upon your death. You can transfer assets to your trust at any time while you are living or upon your death. You appoint a trustee to manage the trust and distribute assets appropriately. A trust is often utilized as a way to minimize tax obligations for family members who inherit your assets.

A trust may be part of a will or it can be a separate document. It is best to discuss the needs for a trust and will with an experienced Mooresville attorney to determine the best options for you and your family.

Power of Attorney

Power of attorney allows you to sign over your rights to another person. This person, known as your agent, is then allowed to make decisions on your behalf and handle your finances as he or she sees fit. A power of attorney may be used as a short-term or long-term solution.

For example, if you are going to have surgery or are traveling out of the country, you may need someone to take over your affairs until you return. If you become incapacitated, your appointed agent will be able to take care of all your financial decisions since you are unable to do so on your own.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney is a legal document that allows another person to make important health decisions on your behalf. A health care power of attorney must be properly executed and needs to provide the name of the person you choose to oversee your health options.

A health care power of attorney appointee will be able to make decisions that become necessary when you are unable to do so on your own. For example, if you have had surgery and now require another procedure, your appointee will be allowed to approve the medical treatment.

Living Will

A living will provides instructions for doctors and other healthcare providers as to your particular wishes in case of a medical emergency. For instance, you may not want the use of extraordinary means to keep you alive. You and your attorney will include your exact wishes in the document before you create and execute it.

Most importantly, an estate plan protects your loved ones and ensures that your wishes are followed once you pass away. We will help you draft and execute your estate plan including a will, living, will, power or attorney, health care of attorney and trust. Contact our experienced Mooresville attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to discuss your estate plan today.