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When beginning your estate plan, your first task will be to inventory what you own. You may be surprised by all the tangible and intangible assets you have. Estimate some values but obtain an appraisal on your home and statements from financial accounts.

You will then need to work with a lawyer to prepare a Will. A Last Will and Testament names an executor to manage your estate after you pass. You can paint your Will in broad strokes or be as detailed as you like, naming specific inheritors for certain assets. Think about naming a guardian for your children, documenting your wishes for your children’s care. A Will can help if you’ve got a relatively straightforward estate plan, or it may be a good starting point. But remember that a Will does not avoid probate and it only speaks at death — so it plays no part in planning for your potential incapacity.

Consider A Trust

A living trust at its most basic is a legally binding document that designates someone to manage your financial assets and establish beneficiaries, and it can work in conjunction with a Will to make your assets are properly handled after you’re gone.

You will want to hire estate planning attorneys with knowledge of the California state laws to draft your trust documents, preferably attorneys who are estate planning specialists or have been involved in estate planning for a substantial period of time. A trust can act as a Will substitute, although you may still need a document called a Pour-Over Will to transfer assets into the trust on your death.

You can select trustees whom you give the power to act on property. If the trust is revocable, you can retain the right to amend or revoke it in the future. Because living trusts aren’t part of the public record, they make it more difficult to challenge your estate and for predators to learn about your assets and beneficiaries. A living trust lets you choose a representative to take over if you’re unable to manage your financial affairs.

Take Stock of Other Accounts

Your investment accounts, such as IRAs and transfer on death accounts, let you name beneficiaries. You set up primary beneficiaries and secondary ones, who may receive portions of the account if primary beneficiaries are unable to or disclaim their share.

If you’ve invested with a partner in joint investment accounts, there are nuances to consider. In a joint tenant with right of survivorship account, the survivor takes full asset ownership. In a tenants in common account, each of you has a set percentage of ownership. When one owner passes, the deceased’s share passes to beneficiaries.

Other Key Documents

Also consider an advance health care directive (also known as a health care power of attorney, living will or health care proxy) which empowers someone you trust to make health decisions for you when you can’t. And a durable financial power of attorney allows someone else to manage your financial affairs. Your designated agent can act on your behalf, including paying bills and taxes, as well as accessing and managing assets.

Of course, all this is just the beginning. There are more rules and considerations. Also, life changes, and your estate plan should change with it. Laws and regulations change as well, and those changes may affect your situation. Plan your estate while you’re sound and capable. It’s better than waiting and having no say in how your estate is handled. Planning today ensures your tomorrow is what you envision it to be.

Contact Us For Personalized Estate Planning In Southern California

We know discussing end-of-life plans can be difficult, but we approach this delicate conversation with respect and dignity. Our estate planning services cover all areas of elder law & probate based on your specific financial & health situation. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding your estate plan, probate, special needs planning, elder or tax law, attorney Dennis M. Sandoval, and the Sandoval Legacy Group team is ready to assist you.

Southern California’s Premier Estate Planning Law Firm

With thirty-plus years of experience as an estate planning law firm in Southern California, you will have the best legal minds to guide you. The trusted estate planning lawyers at Sandoval Legacy Group, A division of Holstrom Block & Parke, A Professional Law Corporation, have offices located throughout Southern California in Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles county. If you have questions or concerns regarding your estate plan, elder or tax law, or probate, contact us or give us a call at (888) 502-2881 to schedule a free one-hour consultation.