The Essential Documents for an Estate Plan

July 2017

If you are planning for the future, as the Estate Planning attorneys of FMJ hope you are, you need to have a core set of estate planning documents.  Failure to properly plan for the unexpected can have adverse consequences to you, your loved ones, your estate, and even your pets (see our post “Good Boy Fido, You’re a Trust Beneficiary!”  for more information).

The following documents should be a part of your estate plan:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs. This is a legal document where you appoint another individual to handle your financial affairs should you become incapacitated. Without this document, your family is forced to obtain court authority.
  2. Advanced Medical Directive. In Minnesota, this document is referred to as a Health Care Directive with two primary functions: first, to outline your medical preferences should you be unable to communicate; next, this document appoints the agent to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to express your wishes.
  3. Last Will and Testament. A will designates the administrator of your estate, outlines the distribution of your estate, and, if applicable, nominates a guardian for minor children. To be effective, a will must be filed in probate court after your death. Probate court is a judicial process where the court oversees the administration of your estate.
  4. Revocable Living Trust. A living trust serves as an alternative to a traditional will and probate court administration. By transferring your property to your trust during your lifetime, the property passes free of probate court upon death. Avoiding probate court can provide a less costly and more efficient settlement of the estate – especially those owning property in several states.

As you can see, essential estate planning documents involve more than just a traditional Last Will and Testament.  If you are missing one of the above documents from your estate plan and/or need to update a document, FMJ’s Trusts & Estates attorneys are willing and incredibly-able to help!

This post was written by Trusts & Estates attorneys David Ness and Matt Jensen. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your estate planning options, contact David at or Matt at