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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, June 28, 2021

Answering Common Questions Clients Have About Estate Planning

Estate planning is an essential step in ensuring your wishes are carried out after your death. However, it is also the best way to ensure that your family and loved ones are cared for when you die. Generally, most people have questions about estate planning.

Instead of putting off estate planning because you have questions, let our California estate planning attorney answer your questions so that you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family.

Five Common Questions About Estate Planning in California

1. What Happens if I Do Not Have a Will When I Die?

A Will dictates how your estate is distributed after your death. You name a personal representative to handle the probate of your estate. However, if you do not have a Will when you die, California’s intestate laws decide how your property is disbursed.

Your family does not have control over your estate. Your property is divided according to the priority set by statutes. Intestate laws do not provide for charitable contributions. Distant relatives generally do not receive anything from your estate.

If you want to control how your property is distributed and your final affairs are handled, you need a Will.

2. Do I Need a Power of Attorney if I Have a Will?

A Will does not become effective until you die. Therefore, if you want to ensure that someone has the authority to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated, you would need a Power of Attorney.

There are different types of powers of attorney. Some powers of attorney grant authority to make all decisions related to finances. You can limit the authority granted to your agent. You may also want to consider a Healthcare Power of Attorney to give someone the authority to make healthcare decisions for you.

3. Can I Avoid Probate?

You can avoid probate in some cases by using a trust to hold your property. Also, property that passes directly to a beneficiary does not go through probate. Using trusts and beneficiary accounts can reduce probate taxes, give you more control over how your assets are used after your death, and protect assets during your lifetime from creditors and other parties.

4. What Happens to My Children if I Die While They Are Minors?

If you die without a Will, the probate court will appoint someone to care for your children and manage their inheritance. When your child turns 18 years old, the entire inheritance is transferred to your child.

You can avoid this situation by naming a Guardian and Trustee in your Will. You can name the same person to serve in both roles or name different people to be the Guardian and Trustee. You can also dictate when your child receives the inheritance and how the inheritance is used until that time.

5. Why Do I Need an Attorney to Prepare a Will?

Estate planning involves much more than signing a Will. The templates you find online for Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney may not address your specific needs or goals. The documents may not contain the specific language and requirements necessary to be valid in California.

An estate planning lawyer helps you identify your estate planning needs and goals. The attorney explains the various estate planning documents and how you can use those documents to accomplish your wishes. By consulting with a lawyer, you ensure that the documents are valid. It reduces the chance that a challenge to your Will could undo your wishes.

Contact Our California Estate Planning Attorney for More Information

Estate planning is not as complex, time-consuming, or expensive as many people assume. Call our law firm today to schedule a consultation with our California estate planning attorney to discuss what would be necessary to develop an estate plan that takes care of your specific goals and needs.


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