Is a simple will enough for your estate planning needs?

Estate plans can look different depending on the assets, individuals, and wishes involved. While newly created estate plans can vary from person to person, these plans can evolve over time as modifications become necessary to reflect life's realities.

Some Californians believe that a simple will is enough to satisfy their estate planning needs. While a will may be all that is needed in some circumstances, those who want more control over their assets after they are gone should make full use of the other estate planning tools at their disposal.

For instance, whereas a will can dictate to whom assets are to be given upon one's death, a trust can dictate how and when those assets can be utilized. In other words, the power of a will ceases once assets are distributed in accordance with its terms. A trust, on the other hand, can provide long-lasting protection for both assets and beneficiaries. So, if a named beneficiary has trouble refraining from spending money upon receipt, or he or she needs a steady stream of income, then a trust in conjunction with a will may make more sense from an estate planning perspective.

There are other considerations that should be undertaken during the estate planning process that a will alone may not be able to address. A power of attorney can name a trusted individual to make important financial and healthcare decisions in the event of an estate planner's incapacitation. Considerations with regard to asset liquidity may need to be made, too.

Estate planning is a highly personalized activity. Although the process can be challenging to understand, especially once immersed in the intricacies of the process, all an estate planner has to know is what he or she envisions for the future of his or her assets, as well as the future for his or her heirs and beneficiaries. From there, a skilled estate planning attorney can guide an individual through the process and help him or her develop a legal strategy that meets their needs.

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