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The Basics of Estate Planning

Estate planning is one of the most essential things a senior can do to provide for their loved ones and ensure their wishes are followed. Learn the basics of estate planning so you can get started on this essential process.

The Basics of Estate Planning

You have a plan for your golden years. Do you have a plan for what comes next? Estate planning is complicated, and it can feel understandably uncomfortable to think about what will happen to your things after you pass on. However, understanding estate planning is essential if you want to be sure your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes are followed when that occurs. The basics of estate planning can help you get started.

What Is My “Estate?”

The word “estate” might evoke the idea of mansions and finery, but the truth is that everybody has an estate. Your estate consists of your assets and obligations, such as guardianship of children. An estate typically includes any of the following assets:

  • Financial accounts (savings, 401k, etc.)
  • Property (land, cars, houses, jewelry, other valuable items)
  • Non-liquid cash assets like investments

The purpose of estate planning is to ensure that your friends and loved ones know what you want done with your estate after you pass away or are no longer capable of managing it on your own. It’s also supposed to ensure that your distribution plan is easily followed and complies with tax and estate laws. That’s why working with a lawyer is advised in most situations.

What Documents Do I Need For Estate Planning Purposes?

The appropriate documents for your estate situation depend mainly on the assets involved. The most common estate planning documents pertain to legal guardianship, asset distribution, and financial responsibility:

  • A will is a document that informs your next of kin about your wishes for your estate after you pass.
  • A guardianship document details to whom legal guardianship of children or other dependents will be transferred.
  • A trust is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to manage various assets.
  • A power of attorney is a document allowing another person to take legal responsibility for your care and the management of your assets. You can have power of attorney for financial matters or other life matters.
  • An advanced healthcare directive (AHCD) guides your loved ones regarding your end-of-life wishes, including preferences for care, allowing your medical records to be accessed by a third party, and designating a power of attorney to make decisions for you if needed.

 How Can I Get Started?

As you can see from the list above, everybody should have an estate plan. Estate planning can vary dramatically depending on what’s involved, but the basic steps are typically the same:

  • Create a comprehensive list of your assets, and determine how you would like them to be distributed if you pass away or are incapacitated.
  • Do the same for your legal obligations. If you’re incapacitated, who do you plan to have care for you?
  • Work with an expert to create the estate planning documents you need. If your estate is simple, a website might have enough information for you. If your estate is complex or you have questions, consult a lawyer.
  • Create your documents and have them signed and notarized. Update your records as needed.


Now that you know the basics of estate planning, it’s a good time to think about your future. Could you see yourself living at The Gables on Pelham?

Are you planning to retire in Greenville, South Carolina? Be sure to check out The Gables on Pelham, a continuing-care retirement community that welcomes seniors from all walks of life. We offer flexible and personalized care, including assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. You’ll love our cozy accommodations, fun-filled events calendar, and welcoming community atmosphere. To learn more, please schedule a tour or call us at 864-713-1377.