Having an estate plan in place is an excellent way to help make sure your loved ones are provided for and protected. Although many people believe that having a will is enough, in order to have a comprehensive estate plan, you will need to address several key areas. Here are five ways to improve your California Estate Plan:
1. Update Your Will
· Often, people prepare and execute their wills, put them away, and forget about them for years. Over time, your assets and situations can change, making the provisions of your will ineffective. For instance, years after executing your will, you could have had another child or sold or acquired new assets. Additionally, the law may have changed since you created your will in a way which is advantageous to you. Having a will is the first step; keeping it updated is the next. By revisiting your will every few years, you can make sure it is relevant to your circumstances and that you are benefiting from current laws.
2. Advance Health Care Directive
· Another way to improve your California estate plan is by making sure you have a valid and current advance directive in place. A California Advance Health Care Directive (power of attorney for health care) document allows you to name someone to make decisions regarding your medical care and provide specific instructions to your providers. If you don’t have one, these choices could be left up to relatives or the probate court. If you already have an advance directive, updating this document can help you make sure the right person will be in the decision-making role, and that your medical care directions are current.
3. Power of Attorney for Finances
· Just as an advance directive safeguards your medical care, a power of attorney for finances can protect your financial interest. This device allows you to name someone to take care of decisions regarding your money and other related interest while you are incapacitated. You can create a power of attorney with limited or broad authority depending on your needs. If you do not have one, now is the time to add it to your estate plan. If your power of attorney for finances is older, it would be best to revisit this document and make any necessary updates.
4. Life Insurance and Retirement Beneficiaries
· Another critical part of any estate plan is properly designating beneficiaries in your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Depending on your circumstances, it may be best to have both a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary named. For example, if you named your spouse when you first made the designation, and they have since died, a contingent beneficiary, such as your adult child, could receive payment.
5. Consider Your Trust
· If you already have a trust, now may be a good time to revisit its terms and evaluate the assets and trustee’s performance. If you do not have a trust but want to pass assets to your heirs without your estate going through probate, this option could be to your benefit. Additionally, if you have a loved one with a disability, funding a special needs trust with an inheritance can be an excellent way to supplement their public benefits without endangering his or her program eligibility.
A comprehensive estate plan can help you ensure that your final wishes are honored and that your assets and loved ones are protected. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have experience assisting clients with their California estate plans and can help you choose the right options for your future. Please contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment and start working towards a solution. /contact/