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Five Documents to Begin Building Your Estate Plan

27 Jul 2021 by: Matt Ryan  ,

Sound financial planning includes preparing for the present, future, and the unexpected. Similarly, an estate plan can help protect you, your family, and your assets if something happens to you or you’re no longer able to make decisions independently. For these reasons, it’s important to outline your instructions in an estate plan to ensure your personal, financial, medical information, and assets land in trusted hands and are managed according to your wishes.

If you’ve yet to build an estate plan, there are five documents that can help you get started: 

  1. A will
  2. A revocable living trust
  3. A durable power of attorney
  4. An advanced directive for healthcare
  5. A HIPAA authorization form

View the video for more details about the benefits of having these documents in an estate plan, including:

  • Why a court could assign a guardian to care for your minor children rather than someone you know and trust
  • Why the person you designate to manage your financial and medical decisions may not be the same 
  • How preparation can help your family avoid an expensive and public probate process

While preparing an estate plan and imagining the scenarios in which you’ll use these documents may be difficult, it can help your family avoid complex and confusing decision-making while protecting your and their financial security and peace of mind. 

If you have questions following the video or would like to request a referral for an estate planning attorney, please contact us.

Audio Transcription

Matt Ryan here with CCMI, doing my best to help you make smart financial decisions. Part of making those decisions is to be proactive and take some action to protect you, your family, and your assets in case something happens to you. In this video, I’m going to be briefly outlining a few estate planning documents that most people should have in place if you live in California. I’m not an attorney so don’t take this as legal advice, but this quick overview is intended to serve as a great starting point. 

The five basic estate planning documents are a will, a trust, a durable power of attorney, an advanced directive for healthcare and a HIPAA release form. 

Starting with the will, this is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your personal property and who will care for your minor children. Without a will, it is ultimately up to the courts to decide who takes care of your children should you pass when they are still minors. If you leave it up to the courts, there is a potential that the person they choose would not be the person you want raising your kids. 

The next document is a revocable living trust. One of the benefits of a basic revocable living trust is that it can own assets like your home or an investment account, and it can even act as a beneficiary in some cases if you don’t want your minor children to inherit funds at a young age. Other benefits include the ability to avoid probate, which is the expensive court process your estate would go through if you died without one, and the ability to keep your financial affairs private because probate is a public process.  

The third document, a durable power of attorney, allows you to assign someone the ability to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. If you do end up in this situation, you’ll want someone you trust to take over paying your bills, managing your bank accounts, applying for any benefits you might be eligible for, and much more while you are recovering. 

The fourth document, the advanced directive for healthcare, provides instructions for your medical care should something happen to you and if you are in a situation where you can’t make your own healthcare decisions. Who would you want making those calls and what do you want them to do? Keep in mind this may not be the same person as the one handing the financial side of things for you. 

Lastly, the HIPAA authorization form is a document that allows an appointed person or party to share specific health information with another person or group. Basically, with all the privacy rules and regulations, this form is meant to help get the relevant healthcare information into the right hands for you.

Admittedly, thinking about these scenarios and when you will have to use these documents is not a fun exercise, but I’ve seen both sides of this play out when people are prepared and when they are not. Getting the right documents in place is extremely important for you and your loved ones and I highly encourage you to consider getting your estate plan in place if you haven’t already. If you have any questions or if you need a referral, please reach out. Thanks for watching. 




CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country. CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
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