No two families are the same. Some families may appear "traditional," with two spouses remaining married for the long-term and raising children, while others are "untraditional." These latter families can involve step-parents and step-children, unmarried couples, families with adopted children and even children conceived through artificial means. Regardless of the dynamics of a family, estate planning is crucial.
Estate plans can address significant wealth. When familial tensions run high, these plans can run into conflict, with multiple parties claiming that they should have their fair share of an estate's assets. Those who are not prepared to head off these disputes can have their estates distributed in a way that is in opposition to their wishes.
It's no secret that divorce is a common occurrence in California and throughout the country. So, too, is remarriage after divorce. While statistics show that less than one out of every five divorced individuals remarry, the rate is significantly higher for those 55 and older. For this population, remarriage occurs 57 percent of the time.
Most, if not all, Californians want to avoid the probate process. After all, having an estate subjected to probate can make the matter public, and it is usually lengthy and costly. For these reasons, many people who engage in estate planning do so, at least in part, to avoid probate. In order to do this successfully, though, Californians need to understand the estate planning options available to them, choose those legal avenues that are right for them, and create legally valid documents that will withstand any challenges.
The recent passing of former President, George H. W. Bush, has left many Californians heartbroken. One reason is because he appeared to suffer from what some call the "broken heart syndrome." This is because former President Bush passed away just a mere eight months after his wife Barbara Bush. As sad as these types of events can be, it can also be informative, especially when looking at estate planning. After all, many families find themselves in a position where a couple, or two parents, pass away in relatively quick succession.
By engaging in California estate planning, individuals can ensure that they retain control over their assets for a significant period of time after their passing. This requires the utilization of many legal documents, but failing to do so can result in unwanted consequences. Although many believe that estate planning is only for the rich and famous, this is not the case. In fact, just about anyone can benefit from competent estate planning. Yet, looking at estate planning issues that affect celebrities can be illustrative for even common folk.
Last week on this blog, we talked about estate planning as it relates to hard assets, such as family heirlooms. Finding a satisfactory way to deal with this issue can be challenging, especially when multiple family members are hoping to inherit a specific piece of property. Yet, dealing with hard assets is just a small piece of the estate planning puzzle.
Figuring out how to divide assets is one of the hardest parts of estate planning. Many Californians choose to split an estate equally amongst loved ones, but even this can become challenging. Whereas assets like cash, stocks and bonds are easy to value and then divide, other assets, like family heirlooms are much more difficult to address. Yet, there are certain steps to help work through this process and ensure that hard assets are distributed in accordance with one's wishes.
California estate planning can be a difficult topic to contemplate, let alone discuss with loved ones. Many think that looping beloved family members into the conversation about estate planning can further family transparency and leave everyone feeling better. But, sometimes, communications do not go as planned. When this happens, arguments can ensue and feelings can be hurt. In short, bad communication may throw estate planning off the tracks.
Many people put off estate planning because they are afraid to confront the thought of their own mortality. Next to death, when it comes to aging, people usually fear declining health. Yet, the sad reality is that many Californians will see their health significantly deteriorate as they age. There may even come a point where their medical condition leaves them unable to make important financial and healthcare decisions on their own. Under these circumstances, an individual may be deemed incapacitated, and a guardianship may be created to protect him or her.