Many people have put estate planning into the category of things they will get around to someday in the future. They may be under the impression that estate planning is a complicated process that takes a lot of work. However, for most California residents, preparing an estate plan can be fairly straightforward.
The will is the estate planning document of choice for many people. The primary function of a will is to provide instructions as to how a person's property -- that is, their estate -- should be distributed upon their death. It can also serve to nominate a guardian for minor children.
An alternative to the will is the living trust. One of the main reasons people choose living trusts is to avoid probate, which in California can be a lengthy and expensive process. Unlike a will, a living trust does not have to go through probate. With a living trust the creator of the trust can manage the assets in the trust during his or her lifetime. At the trust creator's death, the assets can pass automatically to the beneficiaries named in the trust.
In addition to a will or living trust, a basic estate planning package should include a durable power of attorney that appoints a trusted individual to manage the person's affairs if the person becomes incapacitated. Finally, a living will can set out the person's wishes with respect to end-of-life medical care and appoint a health care agent to make medical care decisions on behalf of the person.
As an estate planning lawyer with over 25 years experience in the Sacramento area, I am committed to helping individuals and couples prepare an estate plan that meets their needs. Once the estate planning process is complete, a person's mind can be at ease in the knowledge that their families and loved ones will be provided for.