At its simplest level, estate planning refers to the process of creating a plan for the distribution of one’s assets after their death. But it can also assist in tax planning during your lifetime and, importantly, provide a method for making medical and end-of-life decisions if you are not able to do so. Too many people put off creating an estate plan, either because they do not want to spend the money, or they simply do not want to face the fact that they are going to die someday, and think there will always be time to do later. Unfortunately, I know of too many people who put it off too long, causing their property to go to people they didn’t want it to go to, and resulting in a mess for their surviving family members.
There are tremendous to having a properly created estate plan in California, including the following:
- Control over asset distribution: An estate plan designates where you want your assets to go after you die, giving you control. By creating a will and a trust, you can specify who should receive your property, and in what proportions. If you do not do this, you lose control over where your assets go, and they pass as designated by the applicable statutes.
- Minimization of taxes: Estate planning can help minimize taxes on your assets, which can save your heirs a significant amount of money. In California, the state has its own estate tax, which can be quite high for larger estates. By working with an estate planning attorney, you can take appropriate steps to help reduce your tax liability.
- Protection of assets: Estate planning can help protect your assets from creditors and other individuals who may attempt to make claims against your estate. By setting up trusts or other legal structures, you can ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes and are protected from potential legal challenges.
- Avoiding probate: In California, the probate process can be extremely time- consuming and expensive. By creating a trust and other estate planning documents, the probate process can be avoided entirely, which can save a significant amount of time and money.
- Ensuring your wishes are followed: Estate planning ensures that your wishes are followed after your death. By creating a clear plan for your assets and other end-of- life decisions, you ensure that your loved ones are taken care of, and that your legacy is preserved.
- Making it easier on your family: Your death will be very stressful for your family. By making sure you have a clear estate plan, with appropriate documents, you make it easier for your family to distribute your property and carry out your wishes after your death. The last thing your family should worry about is untangling your estate assets, filing a probate proceeding, and having to deal with all the myriad problems that will arise as a result. A trust can make the transition and distribution relatively easy, removing a tremendous burden from your family at a stressful time.
- Ensuring your end-of-life decisions are carried out: With an advance health directive, you can decide how you want to spend your last days, and direct your loved ones to make the medical and end-of-life decisions you would want, rather than leaving those decisions to doctors or courts.
A comprehensive estate plan will include a will, a trust, a power of attorney, and an advance health care directive. In addition to those documents, I will prepare all of the ancillary documents necessary, including HIPAA directives, trust transfer deeds, assignments, and other necessary documents to ensure that your assets are properly titled. And I make the process easy by providing a questionnaire that will provide all of the information I need to properly prepare your estate plan.
It is also important that you update your estate plan periodically, and ensure that the documents actually do what you want. Things can change, and your estate plan should change as life changes. Whenever you have a significant life event, such as a marriage, a divorce, a death, the birth of a child, or the acquisition of significant issues, you should review your estate plan and update it if necessary.
Whether you need to have an old estate plan updated, or whether you need an entirely new plan created, I will handle your estate planning needs efficiently and with compassion. To discuss your needs, please call me at (805) 267-7147, or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.