Important considerations with estate planning

Estate planning in California should be thought of as a method of organizing one's life for the future when he or she is no longer there. It is a positive step for the heirs whether there is a substantial estate or one of more modest means and making sure that it is complete and in place is a wise decision for anyone. Those who are reluctant to create a coherent estate plan should remember certain steps to take and realize that it is essential for their own peace of mind and their family's future.

Decisions must be made as to who will receive what when the person dies. To do this, there must be a list of assets, what wishes the person wants in place to distribute the assets, and who will carry them out. This should be known before moving forward with the legal documents. Having legal advice goes without saying. Even a smaller estate will have different issues that are of legal consequence and must be navigated according to the law.

There are going to be several options in structuring the plan. For example, it could be a will or a living trust. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of all the alternatives can be useful to creating an organized and satisfactory document. It is intelligent to remember that a will must go through probate before the assets will be distributed. A living trust - revocable or irrevocable - will have a trustee to dole out the assets to the heirs. Health must be accounted for. A person who is ill could lose the ability to make decisions on his or her own behalf. This is when a healthcare power of attorney can be useful. Finally, while it is difficult to think about, funeral planning is the only way to ensure that the arrangements will be how the testator wants them to be.

While these suggestions are a broad-based set of ideas, it is always smart to have a firmer grip on how the process will play out with help from a legal professional. Speaking to a lawyer who is experienced in estate planning can provide guidance and advice from the beginning of the estate planning journey to the end and form a legal document that the person wants and will be carried out as per the wishes.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "5 essential steps of estate planning," Terry Savage, May 8, 2017

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