Estate Planning – An Overview
Estate planning enables you to take responsibility today, safeguarding and providing for loved ones in the future. It is important to point out early on that many people have misconceptions surrounding the word "estate." You may equate the word "estate" with the requirement of owning a vacation home in the Hamptons or having a fleet of Rolls Royce's in the driveway. That is not the case! An estate consists of whatever it may be that you own upon your death. Having a small nest of assets or belongings that you have accumulated through your years of hard work classifies as your "estate."
Estate Planning – Going Beyond A Will
Even if you currently have a Will or are thinking of limiting your planning to such an instrument, you may want to consider other options, such as a revocable living trust with supporting documents. There are limitations surrounding a Will that can be alleviated through the preparation of other documents. A Will only takes effect post–death and is thus post–mortem planning. What about issues that can arise while you are alive? These might include:
- A medical event that has left you unable to express or verbalize healthcare decisions.
- The delicate approach one must take to care for a child with a disability or special needs if you lack the mental or physical ability to do so.
- The need to enable your attorney-in-fact to have the power as directed by you to take care of your financial affairs in the event of your mental incapacity.
Not to mention, with simply a Will, you could require your loved ones to go through the often–tedious legal process known as probate once you have passed. The probate process will depend upon the size of the estate, how property title(s) are held and other variables. The probate process can often be lengthy, costly and emotionally draining on the heirs. Thus, it is important to work with an experienced estate–planning attorney to build a personalized estate plan that addresses all the unique aspects of your particular situation.
The law has created vehicles through which you can legally pass on as much as permitted to your family, friends and charities. It is essential to remember that the laws of the State of California have already created a plan on how your estate will be portioned if you were to die intestate (dying without a will and thus, some sort of "plan"). However, with an appropriate estate plan in place, you will have control of how things will be carried out—who gets what, how much and when the estate is eventually distributed.
Due to ever evolving changes in tax and inheritance laws, estate planning can be an immense challenge and daunting task to undertake without the guidance of a knowledgeable professional. Our Trusts and Estates attorney, Amir Sarreshtehdary, invites you to contact him with your estate planning questions.