Basic things to think about when setting up an estate plan


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.

Getting started on an estate plan is easy, and an experienced estates and trusts attorney can provide all of the guidance a person needs to accomplish their goals. But there are a few housekeeping and homework items a person can do to get a better idea of what to discuss in that first consultation with an attorney.

First off, people need to have a somewhat clear idea of their assets. This includes real estate, retirement accounts, financial accounts, business interests, and other assets wholly or jointly owned by a person. People should also take into account their debt at this point, as in most cases a person will be required by law to satisfy their creditors. Common forms of debt include mortgages, credit cards, loans and other contractual obligations that may need to be paid. Depending on the situation, much of this debt must be repaid before distributions can be made to heirs and family members.

People should also have some idea of what they wish to accomplish in their estate plan. Many people plan their estate's distribution with additional asset protection in mind, while some wish to avoid taxation on gifts and distributions to family members and others. Whatever the goal, an experienced California estate planning attorney can draw up and execute the appropriate legal document to fit a client's needs.

Source: Nasdaq "Estate Planning Guide 101: A Basic Guide To Establishing Your Estate," Joe Young, Oct. 15, 2014

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