What will happen to your property after you die? What will happen to you if you become incapacitated? Who will look after your children, protect your family, and take care of your responsibilities if you can no longer do so? These are the questions that live at the heart of the estate planning. Through the creation of a comprehensive estate plan you can answer all of these questions, and more, by developing various legal tools.
Estate Planning Tools
Every estate plan is unique, but each plan tends to rely on the same types of tools. The individual tools you choose to include in your plan will each be responsible for meeting one or more of your specific goals or legal needs. An estate plan is a collection of tools that, when taken together, work to protect your interests. Here are several estate planning tools that you will likely need to create.
- Revocable Living Trust. A revocable living trust is designed to work hand-in-hand with a last will and testament. When you create a trust you give yourself the ability to more effectively, and efficiently, transfer inheritances to your family after you die. A properly funded, and properly administered, revocable living trust can be one the most powerful estate planning tools in your arsenal.
- Last Will and Testament. A last will and testament is the most basic, and one of the most essential, estate planning tools available to every capable adult in the state of California. Whether you are young, old, wealthy, married, a single parent, or anyone else, you absolutely must have a last will and testament. As time goes on in your desires change, you can update your will whenever you like. If you don’t have a will you leave it up to the laws of the state of California to determine how others will inherit your property.
- Health Care Directives. Should you find yourself in the position of not being able to make health related decisions you will need health care directives to protect your wishes. Through these directives you can choose a medical representative and state your medical choices in as much detail as you wish. As long as the directives comply with laws of California, your doctors will be legally obligated to follow your instructions.
- Financial Powers of Attorney. If your plan includes only a will, but no trust, a power of attorney will generally be used to manage your affairs while you are alive and are incapacitated. A will does not take effect until your death. In a trust based plan, the trustee of your trust can take over management of trust assets in the event of your incapacity. In such cases, the power of attorney will be used for certain ancillary tasks as signing tax returns, communicating with companies and government agencies on your behalf, etc.
Estate Planning Guidance
Crafting an estate plan is something that takes time, patience, experience, and good advice. Our firm has guided our clients through the estate planning process for over 30 years. We help our clients create plans that suit their needs, advise them on their options, and give them the support they need to ensure their plans are as good as they can be throughout all stages of life. If you haven’t begun the estate planning process, you should contact us promptly so we can help you get started.