Who needs estate planning?


The short answer is you. The long answer is a little more complicated. Let's start with what can an estate plan do for you:

  • Prevent unwanted delays in the transfer of your assets.
  • Avoid unnecessary executor and attorney's fees
  • Designate how you want your estate divided
  • Ensure your minor children are taken care
  • Dictate your healthcare wishes
  • Designate the person(s) and power given during personal incapacity to protect your financial, personal, and health interests

There are five key components to the basic estate plan: will, trust, power of attorney, advanced healthcare directive, and HIPAA waiver. As time goes on so does an individual’s benefit in obtaining an estate plan. The older one ages and the greater their assets become the more essential an estate plan is to protecting you and your loved one's future. A precise rule to assess the present need for an estate plan does not exist. 

For most, the first time an estate plan should be considered is when children come in to the picture. With a will or estate plan you can designate a guardian or guardians and provide instruction as to the care of your children. Separately, an estate plan will shield the maximum amount of your assets from unnecessary taxes, and better provide for the financial security of your loved ones. Generally, if you die without a will, trust, or other provision for the distribution of your money and property, that money and property will be distributed according to California law. This is a complicated process, but essentially the state will determine who gets the property based on their relationship to you. 

One way you can control the distribution of your property after death is through a will. But, even though your will can provide for information on how to distribute your assets, your beneficiaries or a named executor will still need to go through a court process called probate to distribute your property. You can also use a will to make arrangements for the care of your minor children. 

A proper estate plan incorporates a will and all the same protections that a will provides. It also effectively protect both your personal financial and medical wishes. Later on it will prevent unnecessary taxes and probate proceedings.

Whether or not to create a trust is a personal decision and you should consider whether you need to hire a lawyer or other estate planning professional.