Estate Planning 101: Wills, Trusts, and Power of Attorney

estate planning

Attorneys will explain to you the critical importance of an estate plan. If you pass away or begin
to decline without one, your family will face serious challenges. An estate plan is about much
more than just handing your property to your loved ones. Of course, your assets are a key part
of any estate plan. Your estate plan must be comprehensive, covering all areas where your
family will need executed legal documents to protect them. Here is some basic information
about a comprehensive estate plan.


Your will is a vital part of your estate plan. This legal document states your wishes for how your
property is to be distributed to your heirs after you die. A will is valid once it is signed by two
witnesses (provided that certain other legal requirements are met). After you pass away, your
will, will be located and used as the basis for beginning the probate process. Once your will is
authenticated, the executor will begin to pay claims against the estate before probate can be
closed and the assets distributed to the heirs. Your will can also be used to name a guardian for
any minor children you have.

Wills are not just for older people. The unthinkable can happen when your family least expects
it, and you need to be prepared. Everyone with assets should formalize a will. If you have life
changes, you could always review your will and make necessary changes.

The consequences of not having a will can be drastic. First, you will lose all control over who will
act as the executor of the estate. Second, you would not have a say in how your assets are
distributed. California law would dictate who gets how much. Your loved ones would only
receive the assets after they have gone through a difficult probate process. All this can be
avoided by investing time and some money right now in properly drafting and executing your
will. There is a time when it can be too late to draft a legally binding document.


Trusts can be a useful part of any estate plan. Many people think that trusts are only for the
rich. That is not the case. Anyone with assets can benefit from a trust.

When you place assets in a trust, they pass to beneficiaries without having to go through
probate, which can save your family and estate time and money.

When you establish a trust, you choose a trustee to administer it. In some cases, you could be
the trustee of your own trust. In other cases, you may get stronger legal protections when you
completely relinquish control of the assets.

A trustee is exactly as the term implies. You are trusting someone else to make the right
decisions on behalf of the trust. A trustee owes legal duties to the beneficiaries, namely the

  • The duty of care to use reasonable diligence in making decisions on behalf of the trust
  • The duty of loyalty to act in the interests of the trust and place the trust's financial interests ahead of their own

Trusts can serve a number of purposes in your estate plan. The first and most obvious benefit is
being able to avoid probate. Trusts are also good for the following:

  • Providing care for a specific person (such as a special needs trust)
  • Protecting your assets when you need long-term care
  • Supporting a charity that is important to you
  • Minimizing the estate’s tax obligations

An attorney can discuss the right type of trust for you. They can then help you execute the
necessary documents to establish it correctly.

Powers of Attorney

There may come a certain point in time when you are no longer able to make decisions on
behalf of yourself. If your cognitive state begins to decline, you may not be able to effectively
manage your own finances or make the right healthcare decisions. Someone else may be better
off making key choices for you in a formal legal capacity.

You can legally bestow decision-making authority on someone else by executing a power of
attorney. This binding legal document can be a general document, allowing someone else to
make all necessary decisions for you. A power of attorney can also be limited to cover financial
or health care matters.

One of the benefits of a power of attorney is that you get to determine the scope of someone
else’s decision-making authority. You can limit the power of attorney as you see fit. These
documents are your way of having a say no over the scope and contours.

If you do not have a power of attorney in place, your family will go through a challenging time.
They may not be able to agree on the necessary decisions, even possibly ending up in a dispute
that goes to court. The alternative to a power of attorney is a conservatorship. However, a
conservatorship requires the involvement of the court, as opposed to executing and signing a
legal document. The proceedings can be expensive and take time. A family would also need to
show the court that a conservatorship and that the right person is being proposed.
Conservatorship is something that you are better off avoiding if you can.

Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney

The Arshakyan Law Firm can work with your family to design and execute a comprehensive
estate plan that will be in place when you need it. You should invest the time today to save
hassle and expense in the future. We can help you with all facets of your estate plan. All you
need to do is contact us to begin the discussion. To speak with an attorney, you can send us a
message online or call us today at (888) 851-5005.