For someone who is child-free, estate planning may not feel like a priority. This can be particularly true for people who believe that things like wills and trust are only meant for wealthy families who need to protect assets. In truth, it’s vital that everyone take steps to be prepared, and for those without kids, an essential step in the process is talking with loved ones. Here are some considerations about the importance of communication when estate planning without children.
Having a Will
When someone dies without a will in California, his or her estate will pass according to the law rather than their preferences. This is known as intestate succession. California law has a specific order and way of dividing assets between surviving heirs, and the entire process will go through probate. Even if you don’t have a great deal of personal wealth, if you die intestate, your possessions will be handed to certain named relatives. However, if you want what you have to be sold and the proceeds to go to your favorite charity, you can do that in a will. Likewise, you can leave all that you have to your best friend. Further, if you have a beloved pet, there are steps you can take to ensure that his or her care is in the right hands. You also get to name the personal representative you would prefer to oversee the administration of your will.
Preparing for Incapacity
One of the most critical pieces of your estate plan is your California advance health care directive. This device allows you to say what medical care you would want if you were to become incapacitated and to name someone to act on your behalf. The other essential document you will need is a power of attorney (POA) for your finances. Like the advance health care directive, the POA lets you name another person to take over decision-making for you if you become incapacitated. In this case, the decisionmaker will be able to make financial choices according to the document’s terms. Incapacity can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of their circumstances. The sooner you know whom you want to serve in these crucial roles, the better.
Assessing Your Situation
Before you begin discussing your estate plan, it would be good to evaluate: 1) precisely what you have, and 2) what decisions need to be made to make it more comprehensive. One of the best ways to accomplish these tasks, is by meeting with an experienced California estate planning attorney. You and your estate planning attorney can examine your assets, determine what existing legal documents you may already have in place, and develop a plan for your estate. Your estate planning attorney will then draft the documents you require, and assist you in taking the necessary steps to make them legally effective.
Once you know what you need, where you want your assets to go, and whom you want to make choices on your behalf, you can have meaningful conversations with friends and family about the future. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have estate planning attorneys with the experience you need to help you develop your estate plan. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.