Many of us are not very proactive in estate planning or aware of the issues of elder law, even though we know that eventually we will all face incapacity and/or death. The Arizona Jewish Post’s article, “Estate planning and elder law benefit all ages,” reminds us that life can change in mere seconds.
Estate planning and elder law attorneys say that everyone needs these three documents—a will, a health care power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney. We encourage all of our clients, and their children, age 18 and over to have these documents in place should incapacity occur.
In California, if you have assets that exceed $150,000 and do not pass automatically at death, your estate could be subject to probate. If you die with no will, state law has a pecking order as to who will inherit your assets, starting with your spouse and children. A valid will must be signed by the person who wrote it, witnessed by two non-relatives who saw them sign and notarized as to the identity of the signer and witnesses. Your will should name a personal representative, otherwise known as an executor. This should be done far ahead of time to be certain that they are willing and able to undertake the task. Let this person know the location of a copy of your will. With a will, your estate goes through probate but you, instead of the state, determines who receives your assets and who is in charge of your estate. If a person's assets exceed $150,000 and/or if they have minor children, we also explore whether a trust is beneficial.
A living will details your end-of-life choices. This information is often included in an Advanced Health Care Directive. Without authorized directions, your family may not be able to make the decisions you’d want. A living will can also include funeral wishes. n Advanced Health Care Directive gives the individual you select, the authority to make health care decisions for you, if you’re incapacitated.
A financial power of attorney lets your appointed agent make financial decisions, pay your bills and take charge of your bank accounts, if you’re unable to do so. This document is only valid when you are alive and cannot be used to dispose of your assets after your death.
A revocable living trust is a document that lets you assemble all of your assets in one place. The assets must be retitled to the trust, not to you as an individual. A trust can help with out-of-state real property or leaving money to a child with special needs who is receiving means-tested government benefits. When you die, the assets in the trust aren’t subject to probate, and are distributed as you instructed in the trust.
Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney for personalized advice that considers your assets, divorces, stepchildren and many other factors. We would be happy to assist you in determining what you need.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about your estate plan, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.
For more information and articles on estate planning, probate, and trust law, please visit our website and request our free monthly e-newsletter.
Reference: Arizona Jewish Post (December 2, 2016) “Estate planning and elder law benefit all ages”