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The Importance of Having a Comprehensive Estate Plan in California

living trust paperwork

There comes a point in time when you are no longer able to physically take care of those who have been relying on you for a lifetime. At the same time, you may also need others to take care of you. If you have not made the appropriate legal arrangements, your family may encounter stress and turmoil. A comprehensive estate plan will put your wishes on paper and be there to guide your family when the time comes.

An Estate Plan Will Take Care of Your Family

There are numerous ways that you need to take care of your family. First, you want to leave them with the assets that you worked a lifetime to build and save. There are several ways that you can help ensure a smooth transition of your assets with little difficulty. A comprehensive estate plan begins with meant to be an unfinished sentence/do you want me to add to it (a comprehensive estate plan begins with a trust, pour-over will, power of attorney, and health care directive).

Without an estate plan in place, your family may be plunged into chaos even while you are still alive. In order to create documents like a will or power of attorney, you would need to have the mental capacity. If your cognitive abilities have begun to decline, you will no longer be able to sign any legally binding documents.

An Estate Plan Is About Far More than Money

At that point, your family would likely need to make medical choices for you. Here is where you would first need an estate plan. When you make someone your power of attorney for health care decisions, they can make medical choices reflecting whatever wishes you have indicated on a document granting your agent that power. 

In addition, you would need someone who is your financial power of attorney, and the two powers can be combined into one general document. Seniors are especially vulnerable to fraud and manipulation and may not be able to manage their own assets. You may have bills to pay from a fixed budget, and the person with the financial power of attorney will help you make the necessary financial decisions.

The same is true when you are no longer here. If you have minor children, you will have definite preferences as to how they are raised and who will raise them. These wishes are expressed in your will. Without a legally binding will, the court would need to appoint guardians for your children, and they may not be the people that you would have wanted to raise your children.

Of Course, an Estate Plan Also Addresses Your Assets

Your estate plan will also cover the disposition of your assets. First, you may have had a life insurance policy and other accounts that required you to designate beneficiaries. Your estate plan includes selecting beneficiaries and reviewing them from time to time to ensure that your designations reflect your current choices. These accounts will be able to stay outside the probate process and will be transferred upon death to your beneficiaries. This is because these are non-testamentary documents.

You also need documents that state your wishes for the disposition of your property. Every estate plan should have either a trust or a will, or a combination of both. Otherwise, your family will need to go through a prolonged and difficult process to transfer your assets and close your estate. If you do not have a will, you would be considered intestate. In that case, the court would need to appoint a personal representative if your family cannot agree on who should serve in that role.

An Estate Plan Helps Your Family Avoid Turmoil

Not having an estate plan in place increases the chances that your family will end up in expensive and contentious litigation after you die. Even if your family is not in conflict, they would still need to go through a lengthy legal process, and the court would entirely control the disposition of your assets. You would have no say in who gets what. Instead, the court would apply state law that divides your property when you have no will or trust. The results may be entirely what you did not intend.

Your family is going through enough stress and difficulty, both when you start to physically decline and after you pass away. The estate plan is there to give them peace of mind that there are legally binding procedures in place to make their lives easier when they already have enough to worry about. Establishing an estate plan is all about investing time and money now to save your family hassle (and what could mean even more money in legal fees) in the future.

Your estate plan is also a way of protecting what you spent a lifetime building and ensuring that your assets go where you want. In a sense, your estate plan is your legacy and a way of ensuring that the next generation can benefit from your lifetime of hard work.

However, a comprehensive estate plan also requires work and investment on your part. You should sit down with an attorney now because there may come a time when you can no longer make an estate plan. Once your health and cognition decline past a certain point, you will no longer have the legal capacity to plan. You never quite know when you will need an effective estate plan, so you will always need one in place.

Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Lawyer Today

The Arshakyan Law Firm helps Los Angeles County families plan now, so they can be ready for whatever the future holds. We work with you on every step of your estate plan, from planning to execution. The time to get started on planning is today. This task is something that you cannot put off until tomorrow because we do not know what’s in store tomorrow. To speak with an attorney, you can send us a message online or call us today at (888) 851-5005.