People in California who want to be able to leave a lasting legacy after their death need to have an estate plan. Whether a person has a substantial estate or only a few financial resources, having an estate plan, including a will, trusts, and other necessary legal documents, is the only way that people can ensure their assets are distributed, and their wishes are honored, after their passing. Whether it's setting up an education trust fund for a grandchild or leaving a piece of real estate to a favorite charity, everyone needs an estate plan.
People in California have a right to live their lives how they want and on their own terms, which is why the thought of being incapacitated and unable to make decisions is such a scary proposition for many people. A person who is incapacitated or not of sound mind due to disease or disability may not be able to communicate effectively, if at all, leaving himself or herself and their loved ones in a difficult position. This is where a living will can make a world of difference.
Residents in California know that it's always a good idea to have a power of attorney, or POA, specifically provided in one's estate plan documents. It is crucial for people to have a designated representative appointed in advance, in case a person becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to make important decisions for which they are responsible.
California residents may have seen the recent blog post regarding the California statutory will, which is the most basic, fill-in-the-blanks will that a person with few estate planning needs can use. While this will could actually be useful in a pinch, it provides almost no flexibility in regards to the terms of the will, and those who need to modify it may end up accidentally nullifying the will entirely in the process. For those reasons alone, a statutory will is almost never recommended for people with anything beyond the most simplistic estate planning needs.
People in California who follow business news may have heard about an interesting legal battle that is brewing in Miami, Florida between five siblings and heirs to the massive estate of multimillionaire Gerald Bean. After Bean died in 2011, the majority of his assets were put into a trust, with his wife serving as trustee. The trust included specific instructions that upon her passing, the trust assets were to be distributed to four of the five Bean children.
Every year in California, thousands of people die without a will. This may be shocking to people who understand how important it is to have the proper estate planning documents in place. Without a will this person has no ability to direct how his or her financial assets will be disbursed amongst friends, heirs, significant others and family members.