Is Having a California Will Enough for My Estate?

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2020 | Estate Planning |

When you create your will, or last will and testament, you have taken the first step towards building your California estate plan. This essential legal document offers critical direction and guidance to your survivors. For those with few assets, it may seem that having a California will is enough. However, the truth is that there are some things you will need from your estate plan that a will cannot offer.

 Having a California Will is a Great Start

Your California will is an essential legal instrument that serves several purposes. First, you can identify your property and assets and name the individuals you want to inherit from you. By stating this information clearly, you can remove any ambiguity regarding your intent. Second, you can indicate your final wishes to your loved ones. Third, you can name your preferred guardians for any minor children. Fourth, you can identify a responsible personal representative to oversee the administration of your estate. You can also include provisions that work with other parts of your estate plan.

Do I Need Documents for Incapacity?

What if you were to become incapacitated and wanted to make sure a person you trusted was making decisions about your medical care? Likewise, wouldn’t you want the medical professionals who were caring for you to know your treatment preferences? What about your financial accounts? Wouldn’t you also want someone ready to pay your bills and watch out for your finances in this situation? Unfortunately, your will can not address any of these issues.

The good news is that by adding a California Advance Health Care Directive and power of attorney for finances to your estate plan, you can take care of both of these areas. With your Advance Health Care Directive, you can: 1) name a medical decision-maker to advocate for your care, and make choices on your behalf, and 2) leave instructions for your treatment providers. Your power of attorney for your finances will let you temporarily give another person limited authority to step in and take care of specific financial tasks. It’s crucial to have these documents in your estate plan. Otherwise, decisions about your medical care and finances could be delayed or end up in the hands of someone you would not have chosen.

Do I Need a Trust?

If you want control over what happens with your estate after you die, a will is not going to give you that power. While you can explain your will’s reasoning and intentions, after your estate is distributed, it’s truly up to your heirs what they do with their inheritances.

If you are concerned about how your funds or assets will be used, you can place them into a California trust and have your heirs named as beneficiaries. Unlike wills, trusts can be created with specific purposes and conditions on how the payments are used. If, for example, you want trust disbursements only to be made for your children’s housing and educational needs, you can set these limits. Your trust can be created according to your preferences. Additionally, if you’re going to use a living trust, you can create the instrument, be a beneficiary, and serve as trustee until you pass away. Further, trust details and administrations are private, and the assets in a trust will not be subject to probate upon the death of the trust creator.

Trusts can be valuable estate-planning tools, and it’s important to consider how this device may work within your overall estate planning strategy.

Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney

While having a will is a good start, there are other documents you will need to ensure that your interests are fully protected. By working with an experienced California estate planning attorney, you can examine your circumstances and determine the right measures for your comprehensive estate plan.

At the Law Office of Alice A. Salvo, we understand the importance of covering all the areas of your life when preparing a complete estate plan and can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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