Updated: Dec 1, 2022
A Guide To The Most Important Estate Planning Documents In California
As the name suggests, estate planning lays out future plans you have for your assets. However, there's more to estate planning than a last will and testament, and there are many more options in California.
Let's discuss the most important estate planning documents, as often handled by our El Monte Estate Planning Attorneys.
Most people instantly think of a Will when they think of estate planning. A will is a legal document that specifies how your property will be split after you pass away. If you die without a last will and testament, your property will be distributed according to California's intestate succession rules, which may or may not be the same as how you would split it.
On the other hand, A Will must be allowed to probate to be valid. Probate in California is a time-consuming and costly process. Most Californians would rather not deal with it at all, so they combine a simple Will with the next most crucial estate planning component, a living trust.
Although it is possible to write your own will, the last will and testament is still a legal document and will require specific wording, phrasing, and signatures. Make sure to consult with an El Monte Estate Planning Lawyer, so you don't miss out on the details as are necessary for a valid Will.
A living trust is a legal arrangement in which the trustee owns the property and manages it for the benefit of named beneficiaries. Your trust will detail how the property will be divided when you die or become unable to make decisions and who will take over as trustee.
The advantage of a living trust is that all of these changes can be made without going to court. Living trusts are frequently used in conjunction with a Will, which catches any property that you didn't transfer to the trust for any reason.
Because it can be amended or totally revoked at any moment, a living trust is appropriately known as a "revocable trust." This ability allows you to bypass a lengthy probate process while maintaining control over your assets while still alive.
You might alternatively set up an irrevocable trust, which has advantages. However, irrevocable trusts have one drawback: they can't be amended or canceled, which means you'll have to give up some control over the trust property while you're still living.
In any case, consult with an El Monte Estate Administration Attorney to know which type of trust is best for you and your estate planning.
3. Durable Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney is a legal document that delegates responsibility for your property and finances to someone else. This document is unique in that it continues to work (or only functions, depending on how you structure it) even if you eventually become disabled or unable to make decisions for yourself.
If you become disabled (or are expected to be incapable of making decisions), you should have a general durable power of attorney to make such choices on your behalf. However, because you won't supervise their conduct, you should carefully consider who you want to choose to make such decisions.
Consult with an El Monte Estate Planning Attorney to help you to draft this document.
4. Healthcare Directive In Advance
The California Legislature has developed a statutory advance healthcare directive form that you can use to appoint someone as your healthcare proxy and provide detailed instructions about your care.
Part 1 of the statutory form is a healthcare power of attorney. This is similar to a general durable power of attorney, except it only covers medical decisions rather than financial ones.
This is another powerful document. However, before appointing someone to exercise that power, you should carefully read the instructions and consult an El Monte Estate Planning Attorney about what they mean.
Part 2 permits you to offer precise healthcare instructions to your doctors and the person you named in Part 1. For example, one of the most essential directions you can give in this section is whether or not you should be given life-sustaining treatment if you are in the following situations:
You have an incurable and irreversible disease that will cause you to die in a short period of time;
You lose consciousness and will not regain consciousness to a reasonable degree of medical confidence;
Treatment's potential dangers and costs would outweigh the projected benefits.
You can name a primary physician and specify if your organs should be given when you die in parts 3 and 4. If you don't finish these sections, the person you named in Part 1 will be allowed to make these decisions for you.
It's crucial to fill out an advanced health care directive because it tells your doctors who to turn to if you cannot make decisions about your health care. You can also relieve them of the strain of picking for you by giving precise instructions regarding some of the difficult questions that a person will have to answer.
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