A Sacramento resident must decide for himself what estate planning documents he wants to execute to ensure that his affairs will be managed to his expectations in the event of his incapacitation or death. As such, readers are asked to speak with their estate planning attorneys about their needs rather than relying on this blog post as advice. It is offered for informational purposes only.
For some people in California, estate planning is very simple. The cornerstone of their estate plan is a simple will containing instructions as to how their assets should be distributed upon death. Combined with a durable power of attorney to provide some protection if they become incapacitated, and a living will to make sure their health care wishes are respected, they have all they need in an estate plan.
Sooner or later many families in California will have to face the reality that aging loved ones are no longer able to manage their own financial affairs. Research has shown that an individual's ability to make financial decisions peaks at about age 53. A person's capacity to deal with new information begins to decline around age 60. For family members, it is best to be prepared for the possibility of an older relative's diminishing capacity by planning ahead, and being watchful for some key warning signs.
Probate refers to the court-supervised process of distributing a person's assets after they have died. In California, the probate court handles cases in which a person died "testate," or with a will, or "intestate," without a will. If the person left a will, their property is distributed according to the terms of the will. The process is overseen by the executor named in the will. If the person died without a will, their property is distributed to surviving relatives under the California intestacy statute; the process is overseen by an administrator appointed by the court.