True: there is no simple estate—everybody has complexity. The basic questions are whether: (i) you're married; (ii) you have children, or children from multiple marriages or step-children; and (iii) there's real estate you own outside of the state. The larger the estate, the more questions there will be about how best to distribute the assets.
If it is a one-time married family, an estate planning attorney can provide for financial assets to go straight to the children without probate administration in many cases. But things can be more complicated with blended families. There may be one spouse with children by a prior marriage and children from a subsequent marriage. If that is the case, then you may want to be sure that the children by the first marriage will be treated the same when the surviving spouse (not their parent) will have control of all of the assets.
Frequently, whether to make it the step-parent’s responsibility to control distribution can be avoided, starting with a discussion to learn if that step parent is willing to carry out an equitable division among the various "blended" children. If it doesn't look like they want that responsibility or if they will be pressured by their own family members to change the plan, then you may need to create a trust with someone other than the surviving spouse as trustee. That will make certain that assets you intend go to the children from your first marriage will actually be made.
A minimum set of documents that every retiree should have includes a will, a power of attorney and medical documents such as an advanced directive. A durable power of attorney permits the person you choose to deal with your finances. An advanced medical directive includes the appointment of an agent to make healthcare decision when you can’t as well as a living will, which is a written document communicating your wishes regarding end-of-life care.
The problem is that this minimum set of documents often do not serve an incapacitated person very well. Unfortunately, the financial power of attorney has a shelf life or banks or financial institutions will require their form be used; knowledge that one acquires only after the individual no longer has the capacity to sign their form! Revocable living trust are the preferred estate plan. The trust is effective immediately so you can be alerting instantly if there are problems with a Trustee being able to access an asset when needed allowing you to solve any issues that arises. Here’s your last question and your grade for this quiz is riding on the right answer. Should I speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about these important documents.
Reference: The (Eugene, OR) Register-Guard (March 23, 2016) "Wills, trusts, big decisions"