No one enjoys thinking about what will happen to their property and their wealth after they die. Most people will put plans in place for who takes care of the cat, picks up the mail, and waters their plants while they are away on vacation. Sadly, only one in three adults has a will to plan for what happens when they are gone forever.
Estate planning involves more than merely having a will. There are multiple instruments you can use to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are allowed to grieve without worrying about a probate court making those decisions. What you have to leave behind and who you want to leave it to will determine which instruments you need to ensure your legacy.
At The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc., I help clients craft estate plans in Woodland Hills, California, and throughout the San Fernando Valley, including Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. I am dedicated to providing you and your loved ones with peace of mind.
You do not need to be elderly or in poor health to create an estate plan. In fact, since none of us know when we will die, every adult should have at least a basic will in place. You may be young and healthy, but who will be the guardian of your minor child if you are no longer here to raise them?
Even if you have some estate planning documents in place, life-changing events such as marriage, the birth or death of children, and divorce will create the need to update an existing plan. Your relationship with your estate planning attorney may, in fact, be lifelong.
Wills are subject to the probate process which is why other estate planning tools may be a better fit for your needs. Probate is an expensive, lengthy, and public process in California. State law establishes a fee structure for attorneys and executors beginning with 4% of the estate’s value up to $100,000. You should also know that the estate’s value is not subject to equity. For example, if you own real estate with an appraised value of $300,000 and you owed $200,000 at the time of death, the value to the estate is still $300,000.
Although having a valid and legally executed will is insufficient for many people, it is better than having no will at all. If you die without one — which is called dying “intestate” — your estate is distributed according to California’s intestate succession laws. This means that your estate is distributed to surviving spouses and family in a specified order which can mean that someone will benefit from your estate whom you did not wish to do so.
There are several key documents you can use to create your estate plan. You should discuss them with an experienced estate planning attorney to decide which instruments work best for you.
A will documents what happens to the custody of your minor children or even your pets after you die. It provides general guidelines regarding the distribution of your assets, such as dividing your estate equally among your children or leaving a portion of it to a charity. Wills are subject to probate which means they become public documents.
There are two types of trusts — revocable and irrevocable. Typically, you would name yourself as the trustee of your trust and a successor trustee to handle the trust per your wishes following your death. Trusts help you pass along assets to your heirs without going through probate, keeping your assets and their distribution private.
There are different types of powers of attorney but in general, you grant someone the power to transact business, manage your finances, or make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Powers of attorney can be general or highly specific, such as giving someone the power only to manage your investments if you are unable to do so yourself.
Also known as a “living will,” this document specifies your wishes regarding your healthcare treatment if you are unable to communicate those decisions when you are ill or injured. Make these decisions when you are healthy, and you can save your family from having to make them if you are absent.
Conservatorships are necessary to ensure the care of an adult who is mentally or physically incapacitated. The conservator is granted the legal right to make decisions regarding the incapacitated adult’s finances, healthcare, education, and other needs.
Estate planning is an important process to ensure your wishes and to remove the responsibilities of distributing your estate from the shoulders of your loved ones. The creation and execution of each document are unique but they all must comply with California law. This is why it is vital that you work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
At The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc. I am committed to helping my clients preserve their legacies. If you live in Woodland Hills, California, or in the San Fernando Valley, including Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, call for a consultation. It is never too early to create your estate plan; however, it can be too late.