Why You Should Have an Estate Plan – Planning for the Future
Estate planning enables you to take responsibility by safeguarding and providing for loved ones in the future. You may equate the word “estate” with the requirement of owning a vacation home in the Hamptons or having a fleet of luxury vehicles 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.”
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.
Estate plans are created carefully for your individual situation, needs and desires through an in person client interview. You will not be handed a lengthy, confusing questionnaire and be expected to fill it out on your own. Instead, an experienced attorney will answer any questions or concerns that come up along the way. We are aware of many estate plans that are prepared and handed over to the client without the client having a clue as to what they just received. We want to ensure that you comprehend your estate plan and have a general understanding of the main provisions contained in your documents. This will bring you a feeling of security and will greatly benefit your loved ones.
An estate plan consists of several parts depending on the size and worth of your estate. Some individuals may only require a Will, while others may have specific requirements that should be placed in a trust. What an estate plan could include:
Wills and Living Trusts
If something happened to you tomorrow, would your family know how to manage all of your belongings? Wills offer direction during a time of need. However, it only takes effect post–death. One should also consider issues that can arise while you are still alive. Even though the Will has a division of your estate spelled out, it could still require your loved ones to go through the often tedious legal process known as Probate. A properly prepared Living Trust would avoid or bypass the Probate process by explaining any objectives decided for your estate.
Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive
It is important to choose an individual that you trust to make important decisions on your behalf in the event you lose “capacity” and are no longer able to. A Power of Attorney grants a designated person the authority to act on your behalf for all legal or financial matters. And an Advance Healthcare Directive designates a person to assist in carrying out decisions pertaining to your healthcare choices.
Probate (Estate Administration)
The probate process happens when an individual passes away, depending on the size of the estate and also how title is held to the assets. If an estate’s value is higher than $150,000 in the state of California, the courts become responsible for overseeing distribution of most assets. This process can often be avoided if a Will and Living Trust have already been written. However, situations can arise where the probate process may be desirable.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any estate questions that you have.