One common misconception is that a will is the only document needed for an estate plan. However, a comprehensive estate plan includes multiple devices that perform separate and distinct functions. Estate plans are as unique as the people they concern. However, certain estate planning instruments are essential. By including these crucial devices in your plan, you can help ensure that your interests are protected and that you are prepared for the future. Here are the 4 documents you need for your estate plan.
1. Your California Will
A California will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. This legal device allows its creator (the testator) to direct where their assets will go after they pass away. Parents also use their wills to named proposed guardians of their minor children. Lastly, a will permits the testator to name the person of their choice to serve as their personal representative during probate.
When someone dies without a will (intestate), their assets and property will be distributed according to California law despite any preferences they may have expressed in the past. Further, the court will have to make decisions regarding guardianship of the decedent’s minor children without the decedent’s recommendations.
2. Your Living Trust
Another key estate planning instrument is the living trust. The trust’s creator (grantor) can place funds, assets, and property into the trust. By doing so, the trust assets become the trust’s legal property. During their lifetime, the grantor can serve as the trustee, make changes to the trust as they see fit, and be a beneficiary. When the grantor dies, the trust will continue according to its terms, or its assets will be distributed to its designated beneficiaries.
Probate can be lengthy and expensive, and many people prefer to bequeath their property outside of the process. One benefit of using a trust is that trust assets will not have to pass through probate. Thus, a living trust can be an invaluable estate planning tool for safeguarding assets and helping to get them to their intended recipients.
3. Your Advance Health Care Directive
An Advance Health Care Directive is a document that permits its creator to leave specific instructions for their medical providers to follow if they become incapacitated. Additionally, this crucial estate planning instrument allows the creator to designate a medical decision-maker. The medical decision-maker will be responsible for ensuring that the creator’s directives are followed. The designated person will also be responsible for making treatment choices on the creator’s behalf during incapacity. Accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone at any time. Having an Advance Health Care Directive is essential to ensuring that you have control over your treatment decisions and that the right person will be there to advocate for your care.
4. Your Durable Power of Attorney
In addition to protecting your health, you will also want to have certain protections in place for your financial interests during incapacity. A durable power of attorney is a legal device that permits a designated individual to assume responsibility for another person’s finances during their incapacity. The designed person can stand in the incapacitated person’s place and make certain financial decisions on their behalf.
These instruments can be broad, allowing the designee to make all or most financial decisions for an individual. However, they can also be narrowly tailored to apply only to specific accounts and responsibilities. Having the right person in place to protect your financial well-being when you are unable to do so is vital.
These 4 estate planning documents establish the foundation of a comprehensive California estate plan. However, your devices will only be effective if they are drafted properly, adapted to your circumstances, and prepared in accordance with California law. By working with an experienced California estate planning attorney, you can help ensure that your estate plan is properly prepared and has all of the necessary components to safeguard your interests.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California estate planning attorneys who can help you evaluate your situation and determine the best solutions for your circumstances. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. https://www.salvolaw.com.