Residents in California may have read an interesting editorial article in the Wall Street Journal recently, dealing with the questions that many couples without children face when they're considering their estate plan. Without children, and the possibility of children in the future, some couples might get the false sense of security that their estate plan isn't as urgent, but having an estate plan is just as essential for people with no kids as it is for people with 10 kids.
Estate planning is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor, but there are some common objectives that everyone should work towards accomplishing in their estate plan. The first is avoiding probate and making sure that property is distributed according to the deceased's wishes. This can largely be accomplished by having a up-to-date will in place at all times.
If a person dies without a will and no direct heirs or children, their property is left to their surviving spouse according to California state law. In most cases, people want to take care of their spouse after they die, but they may also want to leave property to other potential heirs, including brothers, sisters, in-laws and etc. This can't happen without a will. Dying without a will also means going through the probate process, which can be cumbersome, expensive, and very time consuming.
The second objective everyone should address in their estate plan is end-of-life care and powers of attorney. In the event that a person becomes incapacitated or in a situation where they may need life support, it's important that somebody trustworthy be able to make important health care and financial decisions on that person's behalf. This can be done through the use of medical directives and properly documented power of attorney documents.
From a practical perspective, having these two documents can save people tremendous amounts of time and money. From a peace of mind standpoint, they are absolutely essential. With the help of an experienced California estates and trusts attorney, people can get the legal guidance to build a custom-made estate plan that fits their needs.
Source: Wall Street Journal "Estate Planning for Childless Couples," Carolyn T. Geer, Nov. 8, 2014