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How often should an estate plan be reviewed?

In this California estate planning blog, we've written many posts about the importance of having an estate plan and of not postponing the estate planning process. But the process isn't necessarily over when the will or trust has been drafted, signed and witnessed. Every estate plan should be reviewed periodically to make sure it is up to date, and still reflects the testator's wishes.

Guiding clients through the estate planning process

We all want what is best for our family; however, in order to accomplish such a task, we need to think about the future and the what-ifs. For some California residents, this process is not always easy, but the reality is that estate planning can accomplish essential and major decisions that individuals of all ages and families of all sizes need to make.

Should children always receive equal shares in an estate plan?

It's probably safe to say that the majority of people who prepare estate plans in California leave their children equal shares of their estate. But, is this always the best way to do it? Are there times when it is actually fairer to leave unequal shares to the kids, and perhaps even leave nothing to a child?

Don't postpone estate planning until it's too late

Many people in California know they should prepare an estate plan, but they put it off. There are a lot of reasons people postpone estate planning. Some think it will be a lot of work, some believe they are too busy and some avoid it because they don't like to think about the fact that someday they will not be around anymore.

Dying without an estate plan can lead to family strife

In California, when someone dies without a will or trust their property is distributed according to the state's intestacy laws. If there is a surviving spouse, it all goes to him or her. If not, it goes to children in equal shares, with the share of any deceased child going to their children. If there are no children, the estate goes to parents, then to siblings and then to more distant relatives, in that order. Thus, a person who dies without a will or trust runs the risk that their assets will go to people they wouldn't have chosen themselves, including relatives to whom they haven't spoken in decades.

Estate planning is about more than preparing for death

Many people in California postpone estate planning for the simple reason that they don't like to think about their own mortality. That is very human and totally understandable. Yet it is important to keep in mind that a solid estate plan is about much more than giving instructions for the distribution of property after death. A good estate plan will also includes important planning for one's own lifetime.

Whether Prince had an estate plan is unknown

The death of music legend Prince at the age of 57 earlier this month took many people in California and around the world by surprise. Another surprise may be in store for his family members: at the time this post was prepared, it was still unclear whether he left a will. His sister filed papers in court recently stating the musician had no known will and requesting that a special administrator be appointed to oversee his estate.

How should an estate plan deal with sentimental property?

In last week's post we talked about the importance of providing instructions for the disposition of family heirlooms and other tangible personal property in one's estate plan. These items often have little or no monetary value but a lot of sentimental value. Fortunately, California's Probate Code provides a relatively easy way to identify who should get these assets.

Income inequality and estate planning in California

Income inequality has become a major topic of political discussion in California and across the United States. Over the past couple of years, the media has published countless articles about the amount of wealth controlled by a small percentage of Americans. And, in this presidential election year, one candidate has staked his campaign on the issue: Bernie Sanders.

My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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