If You Haven’t Considered Estate Planning Yet, Work on it NOW.

No one can predict the future. But one thing is certain: if you leave unanswered questions about how to settle your affairs after you’re gone, life for your beneficiaries will be more difficult than it has to be. Ensure the assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire go to the loved ones you designate. This is only possible through effective estate planning.

Estate planning is a strategic step for putting your assets and finances in order before your death. This may sound morbid, but life is unpredictable. We must plan ahead to save our dependents from the unnecessary burden of dealing with loss and estate matters at the same time. The process of estate planning includes establishing a will or trust, leaving your loved ones with specific instructions about what to do with your assets when you’re gone.

I Already Have a Will, Isn’t that Enough?

You might think your will is adequate, but a will must be reviewed regularly to ensure you’re not missing anything. Acquiring major assets, getting married or dissolving a marriage, selling a business, changes in beneficiaries’ circumstances, changes to personal circumstances, or changes in tax laws can all necessitate changes to your will. Additionally, if you only have a will in California, but have assets in excess of fair market value of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars ($150,000.00), that will is required to be probated which is public, time consuming and costly.

+ What Happens if there’s no ‘Will’?

If you don’t have a will, and you die, you’ll be considered intestate. If this happens, the California state intestacy laws will determine the distribution of your assets. Intestacy laws vary depending on marital status, or whether you have children. Your assets are split amongst your heirs. If no relatives are located, your estate assets will go to the state. Therefore, it is always preferable to put your wishes in writing.

Can I Rely Upon Joint Tenancy?

Joint tenancy is not a substitute for estate planning and is only applicable for the property that’s described in the instrument creating it. If a single piece of real property is your primary asset, California currently offers a Revocable TOD deed that can be explored to determine if appropriate for your Estate.

Relying On A Trust

A Trust establishes a legal arrangement defining how your assets are held for a beneficiary. Your estate assets are managed by a trustee according to your wishes. Specific directions can be provided about how your assets should be managed by the trustee, and when and how they should be distributed. You can tailor terms of a trust to satisfy specific goals and meet the needs of your loved ones. Since circumstances for every individual are different, it’s important to discuss the matter with an estate planning attorney to determine if a trust is appropriate for your estate plan.

Benefits of Estate Planning

Saves Heirs from Paying Extra in Taxes

With proper estate planning, you can protect loved ones from potentially high tax burdens, depending on the size of your estate.

Eliminates Mess

We’ve all heard the stories about people fighting for property when their rich relative dies. One sibling might think that they deserve more than the other, or one might think they should decide who deserves the size of the share. This kind of squabbling gets ugly fast, and the families end up in the court room. Estate planning saves your family from battling each other in court. With an estate plan, you can decide who your assets will be transferred to in case you become incapacitated or die.

Protecting Beneficiaries

An estate plan can protect both minor and adult beneficiaries from outside influencers, bad decisions, divorcing spouses, or creditor problems. By designating a trustee and guardian for minors, you can ensure they get their deserved share without any discord.

The Final Word

Save your loved ones from unnecessary suffering when you’re gone, by establishing an estate plan. Without one, your loved ones may be subjected to tax burdens, fighting over your property, or becoming enemies over material possessions. Start estate planning now and ensure your heirs get what they deserve!

Julie B. Mains, Esq. is an estate planning and litigation attorney in Dana Point. She has over 20 years of experience protecting her clients’ loved ones and assets. Ms. Mains is available for a complimentary initial consultation and/or Estate Plan review. MAINSLAWOFFICE.COM (949) 545-6500