What are the Key Strategies for Estate Planning?
In the past, estate planning was something that only wealthy individuals did. But most of us have an estate, or personal assets and belongings, regardless of how small or large. And estate planning is far more than who we want to distribute our belongings to after we die. It is who will act as guardians to our children if the unthinkable happens. Or who will take care of us and make critical decisions if we become incapacitated. Not having a concise estate plan may lead to great confusion if our family is confronted with end-of-life matters and need to guess what we would have wanted.
While a will is one of the foundational documents of an estate plan, estate planning itself is far broader than just a will and can provide directives for many things, from the distribution of your assets to who will care for your children. While you aren’t required to have a lawyer create a simple will, working with an experienced Orange County estate planning attorney enables you to tailor a complete estate plan to your individual circumstances and ensures that you fully understand the implications of all decisions.
Fully Documenting Your Wishes
Estate plans can encompass numerous legal documents that serve to document your wishes in certain circumstances. Without some fundamental documents, such as a will, your possessions and assets will be distributed according to California’s intestate succession laws. This may or may not be your personal wishes, but without a will, the state makes these determinations.
Consequently, to make your wishes known for any of life’s circumstances, you will want to have these critical documents:
- A will allowing for the distribution of your property as well as the guardian of any minor children
- A healthcare proxy naming someone to make any important healthcare decisions for you if you are not able
- A durable financial power of attorney naming someone to make key financial decisions when you are not able
- A living will providing clear instructions on what treatment you do or don’t want should you be unable to do so for yourself
Preparing for Possible Long-Term Care
In today’s world, potential long-term care is something that most people should prepare for. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of nursing home care in 2020 in California was $9,247 per month. This can quickly eat up savings. Individuals should understand how to prepare for this care and what their options may be when that time gets closer.
Trusts can do a variety of things that can’t be accomplished with a will. Putting assets into a trust enables them to be distributed to beneficiaries outside the probate process while allowing the individual making the trust to decide how and when assets will be distributed.
Revocable trusts allow the grantor of the trust to retain control over the assets, change terms, and even revoke the trust altogether. Irrevocable trusts are more difficult to change. Both types of trusts accomplish different things, and your estate planning lawyer can explain how they avoid probate and may be of benefit in your specific circumstances.
Planning for Taxes
Your estate may be subject to federal and state income and estate taxes. You should proactively discuss any tax matters with your tax specialist or estate planning attorney to discuss your options.
Updating Beneficiary Designations
If you have life insurance, payable-on-death accounts, or retirement accounts naming specific beneficiaries, this will work outside the probate process and supersede anything you have in your will. It’s important to review these documents periodically to ensure that the beneficiaries you have named are in alignment with your other estate planning wishes and are still the ones that you want to receive these benefits.
Getting Skilled Estate Planning Assistance in Orange County
There are many matters to consider when creating a comprehensive estate plan, and depending on your unique financial situation, it can become complicated. Getting the assistance of an experienced Orange County estate planning lawyer can help you understand your options and can advise you of your best course of action given your circumstances.
At The Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we have worked with California families for over 25 years to help them prepare for the future. Call us at 714.694.1200 or contact us through our website contact form to schedule a consultation.