If you intend to invest the time and money necessary to create a comprehensive estate plan, you want to do an excellent job at protecting your loved ones and ensuring a lasting legacy after you die. You want to avoid challenges, taxes and other issues.

Proper preparation before you sit down with the lawyer helping you create your estate plan will go a long way toward getting you the protection you need and streamlining what can be a complex and time-consuming process.

Review your financial circumstances, and make a list of significant assets

One of the most important documents in any estate plan is going to be the last will that outlines how to distribute assets after your death. Creating a list of the most valuable and emotionally meaningful assets could help you decide how to divide up those assets.

Allocating specific possessions to individual heirs is one possible approach. Other people will want their executor to liquidate their assets and fairly distribute the value between multiple heirs. Taking a good look at your financial documents can also give you an idea about whether or not you will have to plan for long-term care needs, Medicaid or estate taxes.

Think about your medical needs and preferences

Creating a living will is also an important part of the estate planning process. A living will includes the power of attorney documents that let people you trust take action on your behalf if you wind up incapacitated. A living will also typically includes an advance medical directive that outlines your medical preferences so that people know what kind of care decisions to make on your behalf.

Reflect on difficult family situations

Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning, like allowing a spouse to remain in a home without disinheriting children. Parents who have children with special needs may need to think about the costs of care for their child long after they die. Families marked by abuse, addiction or similar issues may have to remove someone from the last will or control how they access and use assets.

Thinking about special circumstances that will influence your estate plan and possibly lead to conflict before you sit down to create your plan will allow you to better address those issues through the creation of a trust or the inclusion of special clauses in your estate plan.