California Estate Planning
The purpose of California estate planning is to ensure that you retain control of your estate and healthcare directives. Otherwise, your estate will be distributed based on the default estate plan and your heirs will have little, if any, say so in the matter.
California estate planning is not all that different than estate planning in any of the 50 states. The only differences are based on the estate laws of each individual state. Estate planning is an important aspect of your life and is the only way to guarantee your loved ones will be provided for in the manner you choose. Estate planning also allows you to outline healthcare directives and appoint Power of Attorney to the person you feel will best handle your affairs if you are unable to do so.
At minimum, estate planning should include a valid California Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Proxy or Living Will. People with estates valued at $100,000 or more may benefit from executing a revocable or irrevocable living trust.
Drafting a Will is relatively simple and provides directives as to how you want your assets distributed when you die. If you die intestate (without a Will), a probate judge will assign a Trustee to administer your estate and will distribute assets according to California probate laws.
Executing a Last Will and Testament is of particular importance to people who have minor children. Guardianship of minor children can be established within the Will. If guardianship is not designated, your children could become a ward of the court until a judge determines guardianship.
Assigning Power of Attorney authority is a decision which should not be taken lightly. POA authorizes your designated agent to act on your behalf in the management of financial affairs. For obvious reasons, the person you select should be honest, trustworthy and adept at handling money.
Living wills are oftentimes referred to as 'natural death act declarations' in the state of California. Living wills document your healthcare directives and outline what you do or do not want should you become critically ill and unable to communicate. Livings wills allow you to forego artificial resuscitation, nutrition or life support.
Your chosen healthcare representative should be able to comprehend medical information regarding your condition and treatment. They must be emotionally and mentally strong enough to make difficult decisions while respecting your wishes.
Life insurance trusts and revocable trusts require the services of a qualified California estate planning lawyer. Irrevocable life insurance trusts are set in stone once they are executed; therefore it is crucial you understand everything pertaining to the trust before signing the documents.
California estate planning is not just for the wealthy. Everyone should execute a Will, designate power of attorney and healthcare agents, and arrange guardianship for minor children. Otherwise, decisions will be left in the hands of complete strangers with potentially tragic results.
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