Handling finances after death requires trust and experience


People in California know that the only constant thing in life is change. People watch their children grow up and have children of their own. Friends and neighborhoods develop and change, and people make plans to suit their wishes as they transition from full-time work to a peaceful retirement. A lot of changes are great; many bring joy and fulfillment to life.

But some changes, such as changes in state and federal estate and tax laws, can be a headache that have the potential to interfere with all the good things in life. Nobody likes to talk about higher tax rates, but in California, this is often the reality. People don't need to worry incessantly about these changes, but they should prepare for them. By revisiting their estate plans each year, people can develop a plan to maximize their financial potential by avoiding probate, escaping unnecessary taxation and passing on the full amount of their hard-earned wealth to their future heirs.

An estate planning attorney isn't just an advisor, they can also be an integral part in making sure that the right assets are distributed to the right people. In addition to helping a person write the will, the attorney can also be named the personal representative in charge of carrying out the wishes of the decedent. California probate courts have very strict rules as to how creditors, beneficiaries and other parties are to be treated, so having a personal representative with legal knowledge and experience is a must.

Whether it's a will, trust, estate plan, or quite usually, all of the above, people should make it a point to stay on top of change as much as possible. Meeting with an attorney each year to accomplish this is more than half the battle.

Source: Sun Journal, "Estate planning: Your will and probate court," Kathleen Kienitz, March 29, 2014

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