What is an estate plan? It is a plan that you put in place which provides direction in the event of your death or incapacity. A comprehensive plan primarily includes, a trust, will, durable power of attorney for finances, and an advance health care directive.
Why I do need an estate plan? The simple answer is you may not like the default plan provided by the law and the costs thereof. The first cost is the fees set by the California Probate Code which is based on the value of the estate at the time of death. For example, an estate worth $500,000 will result in fees of $13,000 for the attorney; and $13,000 for the executor. Another cost is time. Probates are time consuming. The average length is 9 to 12 months. Courts have been particularly hard hit by state budget cuts and the system is chronically back-logged. Going through a Probate is not a plan that most would wish to have in place; the solution is to consult an estate planning attorney to create your own estate plan.
What is the benefit of having an estate plan? An estate plan lays out your wishes and directions. A properly drafted plan allows flexibility to accommodate changes in the law. A revocable living trust will allow for the administration of your assets outside of court which provides more privacy and is likely to be less costly and time consuming.
Who needs an estate plan? We all do. Each of us need a plan tailored to fit our needs and to carry out our wishes. A college student may only wish to have powers of attorney for health and finances. Parents of minor children may be anxious to ensure that they have a properly drafted legal will in which guardians are nominated. Retirees or those looking forward to retiring may determine that the time is right to review and update an existing plan. California home owners may wish to ensure that their homes are titled in the name of a trust in order to avoid a Probate since a Probate is triggered when the gross value of an estate is $150,000 or more. Even with the decline in property values, owning real estate in the Bay Area could require a Probate unless you have a trust. A blended family may wish to comprehensively document and account for the needs of all family members. Your plan is better than no plan.
Why should existing plans be reviewed and updated? Circumstances change over time. Families evolve. Children are born and grow up. Grandchildren are born. Irresponsible youths have grown into responsible adults. Weaknesses become apparent. Designated agents, executors or successor trustees move away, become incapacitated or pass away. People get married or end marriages. Laws change. Financial circumstances improve or deteriorate. For all these reasons every few years you should review an existing plan and update as needed.
Comprehensive Estate Plan
Establishing and Administratering Special Needs Trusts
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Advance Health Care Directives
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