Estate Planning Services with our Skilled Attorneys
We live in a time of so much uncertainty, and most of the sources of change and upheaval in society are completely out of our control. That’s why it feels so good to take control of as many little segments of our own life as we can. We cannot predict the next natural disaster, the next global health crisis, or the next recession; however, we can prepare for emergencies in our own families by saving money, being properly insured, and educating ourselves. Likewise, we don’t have much control over our own mortality, but we can control what happens to our property after we die. Too many people put it off until their “golden years,” but there is really no time like the present to prepare a detailed estate plan.
When you pass away, it will be hard enough for your loved ones (let’s just assume there won’t be too much celebrating). Imagine how much more difficult it would be if they had to argue and spend money going to court in order to figure out how you wanted your property divided. Or even worse, what about selfish family members who would rather disregard your wishes? But imagine being able to express one final act of love for those same people that they will cherish forever. They will remember what kind of person you were while living, and how you took care of them even beyond this life. The more you can do now to soften the blow of your passing, the better.
We work so hard to build up our financial security; many of us spend 40 years or more saving, investing, and amassing wealth. Have you considered what will happen to your property after you die? Young people rarely think about this. In our 20s and 30s we tend to feel like we’ll live forever. But if you have given it some thought, have you also made your wishes known to your children & loved ones? There are different levels of preparation. If you have expressed these thoughts and desires to children, that’s better than doing nothing at all. And if you’ve put it in writing, that’s obviously better than passing along “who gets what” verbally. However, these wishes may not be legally binding and may cause more questions and heartache than answers. The most responsible thing to do is visit with an attorney and put together an official estate plan. This is the only way to ensure that all your wishes are carried out in exact detail.
Four Key California Estate Planning Documents
Estate Planning is much more than just having a will. To ensure your estate plan functions without any hiccups, you must have these documents too:
A legal document used to direct how your property will be divided when you die. If you don’t have a will, your property is divided according to California’s rules of intestate succession. In order to be effective, a will must be admitted to probate. Probate in California is a long and expensive process. Most Californians want to avoid it, so they combine a will with a living trust.
2. Living Trust
A living trust is a legal arrangement where the trustee owns property for the benefit of named beneficiaries. It specifies how the trust property will be divided when you die and who should take over a trustee. The benefit of a living trust is that the changes occur without having to go to court.
A living trust is known as a “revocable trust,” because it can be changed or revoked at any time. It enables you to avoid a probate administration without giving up control over your property.
You could create an irrevocable trust instead, but they do come with a disadvantage. They can’t be changed of revoked, meaning that you must give up some power over the trust property while you’re alive.
3. General Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) gives someone else authority over your finances/property if you become incapacitated. This is vital to protect your estate if you suddenly fall sick and are unable to make decisions yourself.
4. Advance Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive is a form similar to a POA, but it grants someone the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. It states your wishes for end-of-life treatment. You can designate a primary physician and determine if you will donate organs when you die.
Contact our team of estate planning attorneys and we will create a detailed California Estate Plan for you.