Nobody likes thinking or talking about what happens after they die. For that reason, many people avoid the subject or put off doing anything about it. But it’s a situation we all must face some time in the future. By preparing now, we can make things much easier for the loved ones we leave behind.
First and foremost, if you don’t already have a will, you should draw one up immediately. Dying intestate - without a will - is sure to cause your family delays, inconvenience, and financial pressures, all of which are avoidable if you plan correctly.
As important as writing a will is, it’s only the first step in preparing for what happens when you die. Having a secure and durable estate plan can help facilitate the transition for your loved ones. It’s a relatively straightforward process, and there are many practical and financial benefits. This helpful article outlines what you need to do and explains which estate planning documents require filing in California.
You may think that once you’ve written your will, everything is sorted. But think again. You can take several additional steps that can have a hugely beneficial impact on your loved ones, both practically and financially.
Take the time to plan your estate now, and you can ensure that what you want to happen does happen. With a plan, you remove any grey areas and pre-empt any potential disagreements. The result? You make everything much more straightforward, easier, and harmonious for your family when the time comes.
There are many different considerations with estate planning, including:
In every formal estate plan, there are some essential documents that you need to include. Let’s take a closer look at the most critical elements:
A will is often the starting point for any estate plan. With any will, make sure that it’s clearly written, legally valid, signed, and witnessed. If you’re updating it, include a sentence to say that it replaces any previous wills. Remember that when you do pass away, your beneficiaries, or the named executor, will likely need to go through the probate process before the distribution of any assets.
In many respects, a trust (sometimes referred to as a living trust) is a practical alternative to a will. With a trust, you can avoid the time, expense, and work often involved with probate. It also gives you greater control over what happens to your assets after you pass away, plus there may be certain tax benefits for your heirs too. Trusts don’t work for everyone, but it’s vital to ensure that you’re working with a reputable professional if you do decide to pursue that route. Sadly, there are some unscrupulous operators out there.
If you fall ill, a trusted person with power of attorney can step in and take care of your finances. That can happen as soon as you sign the document, or you can stipulate that the power doesn’t come into effect until a doctor confirms that you’ve become incapacitated.
Although it might sound like a contradiction in terms, a living will is a handy and practical document. Also known as a health care declaration, it describes your wishes for end-of-life care, most especially when you’re no longer able to speak for yourself.
You can save your loved ones a considerable amount of hassle and grief by documenting your exact funeral wishes. Your family will be facing enough stress and upset at the time without having to make difficult decisions on your final arrangements. People often include these details in their will, but it’s a good idea to store them separately in an easily accessible location.
Without an estate plan in place in California, your family will likely have to go to probate court. The court uses your will as a basis for its decisions on the distribution of your assets, but the reality is that some of your wishes may not be followed to the very last detail.
The probate process takes time and can involve expensive court and legal fees, especially if anyone challenges the will. You can avoid such issues by drawing up an estate plan in advance.
You wouldn’t dream of buying a house without legal support, so why would you prepare your estate plan - which is probably worth more - without using an attorney? An experienced lawyer can advise you on all aspects of estate planning. They can offer guidance on tax matters, tell you what to do if you specifically want to exclude someone, and make sure you have all bases covered.
It’s possible to take a do-it-yourself approach to many aspects of estate planning, but do you want to take that risk? With a trusted lawyer, you benefit directly from their previous experience, legal expertise, and financial knowledge - and that means you get a swift, legally binding, and durable solution that exactly matches your estate planning needs.
With sensible estate planning, you can’t lessen the pain of your passing, but you can make the transition much easier and smoother for your loved ones. Our experienced team can explain all aspects of the estate planning process to you, so call now for a free initial consultation to learn more.