You may feel as if estate planning is little more than determining how your assets will be divided after you pass on. However, some estate plan documents may be able to help you protect yourself, your loved ones and your property while you’re alive. Take a look at some key estate planning documents and why you’ll want to create them as early in your life as possible.

A will is the foundation of any estate plan

Your will dictates how assets are to be distributed upon your death. It can also be used to appoint a guardian for a minor child as well as an executor who will oversee your estate during probate. If you die before you create a will, state law will likely determine who gets your assets.

Furthermore, a judge will likely have the power to appoint someone to care for your minor children. In some cases, a revocable trust may also be an effective way to protect your assets or provide for your children after you pass.

Power of attorney documents can protect you while you’re incapacitated

A financial power of attorney can let someone pay bills, oversee a bank account or sell property on your behalf. You may also want to appoint someone who can make decisions about the type of medical care that you receive when you can’t speak for yourself.

If you are old enough to be considered a legal adult, it is generally a good idea to have an estate plan. An estate planning attorney may be able to help you create a will, a trust or other documents that meet your needs. The attorney may also review any documents that you have already created to ensure that they still meet your needs and comply with state law.