Estate planning can be a complicated process for many people. However, in can be helpful for some to separate the basic estate planning steps into two categories. The first considers the people who are involved in and benefit from the estate plan, and the second category focuses on the vehicles used to distribute the estate.

Choosing the people who will benefit from an estate plan may be subject to the benefactor’s preference. Different entities that commonly receive assets from a benefactor include family members and charitable organizations. Beyond those decisions, a benefactor might have to consider the people who have to execute the estate. Individuals who are using wills and trusts to outline their wishes may also need to choose people who will follow those outlines to the best of their ability. Many people name trusted adult children or competent friends as executors and trustees.

The type of devices used to transfer one’s assets is also an important thing to consider. Some assets transfer automatically after a benefactor passes away. For example, interest in jointly owned assets usually passes to the other owners, and certain accounts, such as retirement funds, have designated beneficiaries. However, other assets may need to be included in a will or titled to a trust. Some people choose to focus their planning on revocable living trusts, which avoid privacy issues and court costs that wills face in probate.

For a more detailed understanding of estate planning strategies, a benefactor might consider discussing his or her situation with a wills and trusts lawyer. In addition to being able to provide a client with information, a lawyer might also be able to draft the paperwork necessary for establishing a trust or will.