Many people assume that estate planning starts and stops with the creation of a last will and testament. While wills are essential documents for distributing your wealth and possessions after your death and naming guardians for minor children, successful estate plans generally have provisions that protect their interests in life.

When you’ve reached the later stages of your life, establishing these must-have legal documents is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Your family will thank you for having these essential estate planning documents in place when your time comes:

Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to select an agent or person who will act on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. A power of attorney permits your agent to manage your finances, transact real estate or make other important legal decisions for you. Without a power of attorney in place, the court will ultimately decide what will happen to your assets if you become incapacitated.

Advance healthcare directive

An advance healthcare directive, or a living will in New Jersey, is a document that appoints a healthcare agent to make medical decisions for you when you can no longer make them. With an advance healthcare directive, you can also designate a person to serve as your guardian or conservator if the courts deem you mentally incompetent. Be sure to pick someone you trust as your agent, as they may someday hold your life in their hands.

There is far more to estate planning than deciding how to divide your belongings. It’s about ensuring that you and your loved ones have a plan and protection for the worst-case scenarios. Adding these documents to your estate plan will ensure everyone has peace of mind.