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Estate Planning Services: What’s Available?


Estate planning services encompass a wide range of professional assistance designed to help individuals manage and protect their assets for the future. These services include creating wills, establishing trusts and planning for estate taxes so that assets can get distributed to heirs. By working with experienced financial advisors and attorneys, you can ensure that your financial legacy is preserved and your loved ones are cared for according to your wishes.

If you need help with your estate plan, consider working with a financial advisor with estate planning expertise. Connect with a fiduciary financial advisor today.

Understanding Estate Planning

Estate planning involves preparing for the management and distribution of a person’s assets after their death. The goal is to minimize legal hurdles, taxes and uncertainties, providing a clear plan for the future.

The key elements of estate planning typically include a will, which outlines how assets should be distributed; a trust, which can offer more control over how and when assets are distributed; and a durable power of attorney, which designates someone to manage financial affairs if the person becomes incapacitated. An estate plan may also account for a person’s current and future tax liability, or maximize the after-tax value of their estate.

Estate planning services are provided by a range of professionals, including estate planning attorneys, financial advisors and accountants. These experts help individuals understand their options and create a comprehensive plan that meets their needs.

Types of Estate Planning Services

A man reviews his will with his son.

Each estate planning tool serves a unique purpose and offers specific benefits. Here are seven common types of estate planning tools to consider.


One of the foundational aspects of estate planning is the creation of a will. This legal document specifies how your assets will be distributed after your death. It allows you to appoint an executor to manage your estate and guardians for minor children. A will outlines how you want your assets distributed after your death and can designate guardians for minor children.


Trusts are legal arrangements where one party holds property for the benefit of another. They can be used to manage assets during your lifetime and after death, offering greater control over asset distribution and potential tax benefits. This arrangement can also help avoid probate, providing privacy and potentially reducing estate taxes. Trusts can be revocable, allowing changes during your lifetime, or irrevocable, offering greater protection from creditors and estate taxes.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a common estate planning document that grants someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are different types of POAs, including a durable power of attorney for financial decisions and a healthcare power of attorney for medical decisions.

Healthcare Directives

Healthcare directives, also known as living wills, specify your wishes regarding medical treatment if you are unable to communicate them yourself. These directives can include instructions on life-sustaining treatments, pain management and organ donation preferences.

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations are a straightforward yet vital part of estate planning. They allow you to name individuals or entities to receive assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and payable-on-death accounts directly, bypassing the probate process.

Guardianship Designations

For those with minor children, designating guardians is an essential element of estate planning. This process involves naming individuals who will take over the care of your children if you pass away or become incapacitated. You can do this explicitly in a will. Ensuring you have legally designated guardians provides peace of mind, knowing that your children will be cared for by trusted individuals.

Estate Tax Planning

Effective estate tax planning can significantly reduce the tax burden on your estate, preserving more wealth for your beneficiaries. This service involves strategies such as gifting assets during your lifetime, establishing trusts and taking advantage of estate tax exemptions and deductions.

Other Benefits of Estate Planning

Estate planning is often associated with distributing assets after death, but it also offers several additional advantages that can significantly benefit you and your loved ones.

For business owners, estate planning ensures a smooth transition of the business in the event of retirement, incapacity, or death. By outlining a clear succession plan, you can designate successors, minimize disruptions and maintain the continuity of your business operations.

Incorporating charitable giving into your estate plan allows you to support causes you care about while potentially reducing estate taxes. By setting up trusts or making direct bequests to charities, you can leave a lasting legacy and make a meaningful impact on your community.

Estate planning also helps in protecting your assets from creditors and lawsuits. Through strategic use of trusts and other legal structures, you can shield your wealth, ensuring that your assets are preserved for your beneficiaries and are not vulnerable to legal claims.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Services

A couple speaks with an estate planning attorney they're considering hiring.

Selecting the appropriate estate planning services depends on your unique situation, goals, and the complexity of your estate.

1. Assess Your Estate’s Size and Complexity

Begin by evaluating the size and complexity of your estate. If your assets are substantial or diverse, you might require more sophisticated tools like trusts or estate tax planning. For smaller estates, simpler solutions like a basic will or joint ownership might suffice. Understanding the scope of your estate is the first step in selecting the appropriate planning tools.

2. Identify Your Goals and Needs

Next, clearly define your goals. Are you looking to minimize taxes, transfer assets or protect your beneficiaries? Each goal requires different tools. For example, a trust can provide tax advantages and give you the ability to establish conditions and timelines for how your assets are distributed. A will, on the other hand, ensures your wishes are legally recognized. Your specific objectives will guide your choice of estate planning instruments.

3. Consult a Financial Advisor or Estate Planner

Professional guidance is an important component in estate planning. A financial advisor or estate planner can help you navigate the complexities of estate laws and recommend the best tools for your situation. They can provide insights into the various estate planning tools available, ensuring that all aspects of your estate are covered.

4. Review and Update Regularly

Estate planning is not a one-time task. Regularly review and update your plan to reflect changes in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or significant financial shifts.

Bottom Line

Estate planning can help you protect your assets effectively and make your wishes legally binding so that your estate can get distributed to specific beneficiaries. Additionally, this can also help you avoid potential legal burdens and minimize taxes. By engaging with experienced financial advisors and estate planning attorneys, you can create a comprehensive plan that includes wills, trusts, powers of attorney and healthcare directives, among other tools.

Estate Planning Tips

  • If you’re concerned about estate taxes eating into the money and assets your heirs will inherit from you, you may want to consider strategically gifting assets while you’re still alive. In 2024, the IRS allows you to give gifts of up to $18,000 per person to as many people as you like. Gifts that exceed this limit will count against your lifetime gift tax exemption, which is worth $13.61 million in 2024. Once that exemption is exhausted, taxes that range from 18% to 40% are levied on estates.
  • A financial advisor with estate planning expertise can help arrange your assets while you’re still alive to maximize the size of inheritance for your beneficiaries. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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