Creating an estate plan can be confusing and time-consuming. But having a few basic legal documents in place can make a big difference to your loved ones during a difficult time. Work with a trusted attorney who understands your state’s estate laws to identify the best strategies key estate-planning items to consider:

A living trust

A living trust is a legal document that places your assets into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime, which means you can continue to use them as you normally would. When you die, these assets would be transferred to your appointed heirs.

By using a living trust, you’ll save your representative and heirs time and money, because your assets avoid the legal process of distributing property.

Up-to-date beneficiary designations

One of the easiest ways to provide for those you care about is by properly designating your beneficiaries: the people, trusts or organizations you want to give your assets to upon your death. Consider and review each beneficiary designation you have made on financial assets like 401(k) plans, pension plans, individual retirement accounts and Roth IRAs, and on any insurance policies or annuities you own. A pour-over will

A will states your wishes for who will inherit your property when you die. A pour-over will works alongside your living trust and has special language making the trust the beneficiary. When you use this in conjunction with your living trust, it acts as a safety net to catch and move any personal assets that weren’t placed in the trust during your lifetime.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is written authorization for someone to act on your behalf in private, business or legal affairs. There are several different types. Discuss with your attorney the details of each to ensure you understand and select the one that is best suited for your situation.

A living will

A living will, or advance directive, is a written document or statement in which you detail your wishes regarding medical treatment and life-sustaining efforts in case you become incapacitated and can no longer express informed consent. It can help your loved ones know what you want to happen during an extremely difficult time.