While it is more desirable to begin estate planning early and have a comprehensive scheme in place, it is never too late to begin the process, and a will is a good foundational document to start with. And in fact, for some Pennsylvania residents, a will may be all they need. However, estate planning can be thought of as preparing for what could happen, not necessarily what is likely to happen. A will can achieve much of what many people need, but there may be better ways to get there.

Legal experts explain that a will at its most basic purpose can serve as the vehicle to transfer assets from the newly deceased person to his or her heirs. However, there are other ways to do the same thing. Bank accounts, investment accounts and brokerage accounts, for example, can be transferred via a transfer on death designation established before the decedent passed that becomes effective at the time of death. Additionally, assets that have ownership title or deeds, such as real estate, can be transferred via a trust instead of a will.

Additionally, it is recommended powers of attorney be set up to protect the person in their lifetime prior to death. POAs can be established for the purpose of conducting financial transactions should the individual become temporarily incapacitated and also to provide direction as to the sort of medical care desirable at the end of life.

Not one size fits all in estate planning. An estate planning lawyer might offer advice and counsel on what documents can best protect an individual’s interests under the specific facts and circumstances. A will is a good place to start, but it is not all that is necessary.