Physicians in South Dakota may want to ensure that they have their estate plans in order. Dying without an estate plan might mean that the state determines what happens to a person’s assets, and this can leave loved ones at a disadvantage. For example, an estate could be divided between a spouse and grown children in a way that leaves the spouse too little to live on.

Incapacity planning

Planning for the possibility of becoming incapacitated is one element of estate planning. There are several documents you may want to have. A power of attorney appoints someone to manage your finances if you are unable to do so. You may also want to think about documents that appoint someone to make decisions about your health care and that outline your wishes for medical care if you are unable to express them.

Planning for asset distribution

A will can name the beneficiaries for your assets. However, you may want to consider a revocable trust as your main estate planning document. The assets passed by a will must go through a probate process, which can be time-consuming. A trust is private and assets pass directly to beneficiaries. What is often called a “pour-over will” can move any assets not already in the trust into it on your death.

An attorney may help you with the process of estate planning, including determining whether a trust would be useful in your situation. A trust can give you more control over how assets are distributed. For example, you can specify that a beneficiary should only receive them after reaching certain milestones. For some people, an irrevocable trust might be helpful. This type of trust takes the assets in it out of your control, but it also offers greater protection than a revocable trust, including against creditors.