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Estate Planning FAQ

Estate planning can be useful for individuals seeking to have their assets prepared in the circumstance of death or if they are unable to take care of themselves. It may help to ensure your loved ones are protected and their financial futures are secured. The process of planning an estate and preparing legal documents may be complex, depending on your wishes and intentions. A few questions can arise along the way.

Q: What can I do with estate planning?
Q: What does it involve?
Q: Do I need estate planning?
Q: What can be included in an estate?
Q: What is a will?
Q: What is an executor?
Q: Are there other ways to leave property besides a will?
Q: What if I am unable to take care of myself?

What can I do with estate planning?
Estate planning addresses how your assets are managed and who will manage them if you are unable to manage them yourself. It can also determine the circumstances under which to distribute your assets, as well as how and to whom they are distributed. Estate planning can also help in managing how your health care decisions are made and who makes them in situations where you cannot manage to do so yourself.

What does it involve?
Estate planning may involve drafting a will, as well as medical, financial, tax, and business planning. Important related documents and information will be needed, as well as knowledge of your future plans and who will carry them out in a situation where you are unable to.

Do I need estate planning?
Whether large or small, your estate assets are important to you, and you will want to ensure they are handled correctly if you are unable to. Small estates can be handled with focused care, and in the case of large estates, planning can reduce costs and ensure debts are carried out without mishandling. Without estate planning, a judge will appoint someone to handle your estate who may or may not be prepared to handle it correctly.

What can be included in an estate?
All of your assets may be included in estate planning. This includes assets held alone or jointly with others, such as real estate, furniture, bank accounts, and cars. Also included in these assets are life insurance benefits and retirement accounts. The value of your estate is determined by fair market value of all your property.

What is a will?
A will is a legal document that names executors, guardians, and individuals who receive your assets. Though some assets are exempt, the majority of assets may be subject to the conditions you lay out in a will. Exemptions such as co-owned assets would pass directly to surviving co-owners and beneficiaries regardless of will instructions.

What is an executor?
An executor is a person appointed to administrate and supervise your estate, including the payment of your debts, expenses and taxes. The executor is also in charge of distributing your estate according to the instructions of a will, or in the absence of a will, by state guidelines. An executor is also referred to as a personal representative or administrator.

Are there other ways to leave property besides a will?
Certain kinds of assets can be transferred directly to named beneficiaries by other means. These can be handled by living trusts and other alternative legal documents and procedures.

Some of the assets eligible for transfer include:

  • Life insurance benefits
  • Pay on death assets
  • Retirement plans, including IRA and 401(k)
  • Trustee bank accounts
  • Transfer on death securities accounts

What if I am unable to take care of myself?
Estate planning can account for situations where individuals are no longer able to take care of themselves and make decisions without assistance. For these circumstances, documents like power of attorney allow you to give another person the right and authority to act on your behalf. You may limit authority to special circumstances or expand as generally as you like.

Retain Effective Legal Guidance in California

Estate planning may help you prepare for the future and ensure your loved ones are protected. However, it is important to ensure precautions are taken to account for most circumstances you may face. With the legal assistance of a California estate planning attorney, you may be able to secure proper protection and administration of your estate. Explore all your options as you plan for the future. Call today to schedule a consultation!