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Estate Planning – What is Estate Planning

The advantages of an estate plan!

Estate planning is a process of taking inventory of one’s wealth and designating how your financial and personal matters should be handled when you are gone or incapacitated.  

When you plan your estate, you take a look at your wealth and your family’s needs, then state your wishes of who should get what and when. You also leave a plan for your children’s care.

Estate Planning and Why it’s essential!

We’ve heard many horror stories about people with money who died without leaving a financial legacy behind, leaving their loved ones pitted against each other on who should get what. These fights are sometimes ugly and public; sometimes, they even end up in court, costing your loved ones thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees. Things will be difficult for your loved ones even if you leave a big bank! 

Estate planning is a smart way of preventing family disputes over a deceased’s wealth. It ensures who gets what portion of the wealth you worked hard to amass.  Is an estate attorney necessary?  Most people say absolutley yes!

Now, you don’t have to be of significant wealth to plan your estate. 

Estate planning is for everyone. 

Everyone has something, whether in stocks, real estate, hedge funds, derivatives, gold, personal business, or bitcoin! As you age, things slow down, and your health deteriorates. Death is a matter of when not if. But before that, you may even become incapacitated. And just what do you think will happen to your assets when you are gone or legally incapable? It’s hard to think about it, but the surest way to maintain control over your wealth even after you’re gone is to leave guidelines. That means doing comprehensive estate planning. 

People make a lot of excuses for not planning their estate. Sometimes it’s ignorance; other times, it is pride or denial that there’s still time. But life is full, not short of surprises and unpredictable events. Someday someone different will need to take over your personal and financial matters. Leave them a guideline. 

Estate planning doesn’t have to be costly. 

Even if you can’t afford a comprehensive estate plan, you can start with a simple, affordable plan such as a will, trust, power of attorney, and term life insurance with plans to reassess the platform later as your financial situation changes. 

An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you plan your estate; they will look into your financial situation, family needs and advise on a suitable plan. They will also help with the preparation of documents to protect your assets against taxes and lawsuits. These include titles, last will and testament, power of attorney, advance directives, and living will and trusts. 

So, no more excuses to avoid planning your estate. Estate planning is a necessary process and simple with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney

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Advantages of estate planning include: 

  • Reducing taxes: indeed, the common goal of planning one’s estate is so that your loved ones don’t drown in tax expenses. That means not leaving your wealth unprotected from the IRS. It also means not just transferring assets to heirs without considering the tax burden it’s going to create for them. You can also set up trusts to reduce or avoid estate taxes. 
  • Protecting beneficiaries. The common goal of estate planning is designating beneficiaries and or heirs to avoid probate, where your surviving loved ones have to depend on court rulings on who should get what. Probate litigations take years and cost a lot of money. 
  • Protect your children by naming guardians and stating how they should care for them before they turn 18. 
  • Eliminating family squabbles. Choosing who will take over your responsibility and designating heirs ensures a smooth transition when you die or become incapacitated.

Estate planning basics 

Every estate planning starts with a will or living trust. But while wills and trusts designate asset sharing and who should be in charge, they are not the same. 

What is a will? 

A will is a document that designates asset sharing and should be in charge of a person’s assets until their final distribution. A will is recognized under the law. But a will won’t help avoid probate. All assets in your name should go through their jurisdiction’s probate process before they can be distributed to heirs. Jointly-owned properties are excluded from probate. 

What is a trust? 

A trust is a relationship between three individuals where one party (trustee) holds the legal titles to the properties of another’s (grantor) for the advantage of a third party (beneficiaries). Transferring your assets in a trust, primarily an irrevocable trust, covers them from creditors’ claims and legal rulings. 

But this is just simple estate planning; to avoid blunders, you have to go beyond who should get what and when stipulation. Good estate planning is comprehensive in its instructions, directives, and plans to minimize expenses and family disputes. 

The complete estate planning checklist: How to come up with a comprehensive estate plan

Take stock of everything you own 

Ever wondered how much wealth you have? Your estate comprises all your tangible and intangible possessions, including car, furniture, collections, certificates of deposits, savings accounts, stocks, 401(k), and other possessions. You will want to leave the information on how wealth to the executor or trustee. Otherwise, things are going to be difficult for them. Properties can even get lost or stolen, none the wiser. A good estate planning attorney will take you through this process. You can be surprised how much you have. 

Include life insurance, disability income insurance, and long-term care 

Life insurance ensures your dependants are financially safe after your passing. Disability income insurance, too, covers income gaps during those times that you won’t be able to go to work and earning money. Long-term care insurance will come in handy if you need care due to old age, prolonged illness, or injury. 

Include a guardian and inheritance manager for kids under 18 

A guardian will help take care of your minor or elderly loved one, ensuring their financial, medical, and housing needs are met. In the case of minors, an inheritance manager can help keep the estate safe until they come of age. 

Include your child-rearing goals and ideals 

Don’t just instruct how your valuables should be passed; provide instruction on how your religion, hard work, and other values should be passed to the child. 

Include medical care, power of attorney, and other legal directives 

The essential legal directives to put in an estate plan include trust, medical care directive, and power of attorney. A trust puts your properties in a trustee’s hands to be managed and administered for beneficiaries’ advantage. 

A medical care directive states how you wish to be taken care of if you are incapacitated before you die. Power of attorney legally puts your financial affairs in someone else’s hands if you are incapacitated. Be careful on who you give power of attorney; you can include a limited power of attorney to limit the actions of the person you put in charge of your medical and financial matters. 

Organize records, correct titles and heir designations  

Wordings matter when it comes to insurance policies, wills, trusts, titles, and other directives. Review tiles and beneficiary designations, correct errors, and make sure your family can easily find them when you are gone. 

Provide for loved one’s with special needs 

In the case of loved ones with special needs, ensure their inheritance doesn’t disqualify them for government assistance. 

Protect loved ones from future creditors 

For beneficiaries or heirs who might be irresponsible with funds, ensuring their inheritance is not within reach of creditors is a smart idea. You can transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust. 

Reassess the plan  

An estate plan is not a one and done process; a lot happens in life. As the law, financial status, and needs of your family change, edit the plan to reflect this new situation.

Wrapping up 

Estate plans are beneficial. You will state who gets what and when but when you plan your estate, you will maintain control over it even in your death. You will also reduce tax, court fees, and needless legal expenses at a minimum. An estate plan also helps avoid family disputes over who should get what after you are gone. 

Do you need the services of an estate planning attorney in California? From helping with last will and testament, power of attorney, living will and trusts, and advance directives to Medicaid planning, long-term care, and watching over your finances, we are experienced estate planning attorneys. Indeed, we have worked with various California families and helped them organize their estate and administer their wealth to beneficiaries and or heirs. Contact us to talk about your estate planning needs further.

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Estate Planning - What Is Estate Planning? The Basics!

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