Do I have an “estate”? What is an “estate plan”? What happens if I don’t have a plan? And more…

Do I have an “estate”? Whether it is large or small, you have an estate and there is an appropriate plan for you.

  • Your “estate” means all of your assets.
  • This may include:
    • your home and other real estate
    • financial accounts (checking / savings accounts, investments, etc.)
    • life insurance proceeds
    • retirement accounts
    • furniture + artwork + collectibles
    • cars / RVs / boats / other vehicles
    • jewelry
    • and more
  • Your estate is probably larger than you realize.

What is an “estate plan”? A complete estate plan includes BOTH lifetime incapacity planning and legacy planning.

  • Lifetime incapacity planning allows you to designate people to manage your affairs if you are alive but cannot make your own decisions. It also allows you to provide instructions and guidance. It may include:
    • Durable Power of Attorney – addresses your financial needs.
    • Advance Health Care Directive – addresses your wishes with regard to health care and end-of-life care.
    • HIPAA Authorization – ensures that medical providers are not prevented from communicating with your loved ones in a timely fashion.
    • Nomination of Guardianship – for parents of young children, this is an essential and emotional component of any plan. If you are unable to care for your children as the result of incapacity, rather than death, many standard nominations of guardianship may be ineffective. Let’s make sure your kids are covered – no matter what!
    • Revocable Living Trust – while the primary purpose of your Trust may be legacy planning (see below), your Trust can also be beneficial to you and your loved ones during any period of incapacity.
  • Legacy planning allows you to preserve your legacy by minimizing (or eliminating) delays, taxes, and expenses – thereby maximizing assets passed on to your intended beneficiaries. It may include:
    • Revocable Living Trust – allows you to control distribution of your assets after your death, ensuring those you love are provided for in the most appropriate way.
    • Pour-Over Will – “pours”, or adds, assets to your revocable living trust upon your death, which can save your loved ones and heirs time and money.
  • Special needs planning addresses the special considerations and strategies that may be beneficial for families of those with special needs. This can be critically important, both during the life of the care-takers and after death.
  • Pet trusts and Pet caretaker nominations can help ensure your beloved animal companions are taken care of appropriately, regardless of whether you’re able to provide that care yourself.

What happens if I don’t have an estate plan? Failure to plan can negatively impact you and your loved ones, both during life and after a death. Your family deserves the benefit of an informed estate plan – and YOU deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve provided exactly that.

  • Failure to make a lifetime incapacity plan can lead to heartache for you and your loved ones – and may be difficult and expensive to fix.
    • Incapacity may result from illness, injury, or age-related decline. Sadly, it can happen suddenly and unexpectedly to any of us – young or old.
    • If incapacity strikes and you don’t have a plan, your loved ones may have to go to court to obtain the authority to care for you, to access your accounts, and to manage your finances on your behalf (a proceeding called a conservatorship). This is usually an expensive, stressful, and time-consuming process – and it is completely avoidable through proper planning.
  • Failure to engage in thorough legacy planning means you will have lost the opportunity to save your heirs both time and money – not to mention that your assets may not pass according to your wishes after your death.
    • If you die without a will (called dying intestate) your assets will be distributed according to California law – which likely will not reflect your wishes.
    • If you die with only a will, generally your will must be submitted to probate, which is the court-supervised process for transferring assets to beneficiaries. Probate is usually extremely expensive and time-consuming…and every penny spent in probate is a penny that does not go to your intended beneficiaries. (Not to mention that the lengthy process is public and just draws out an already painful loss for those you love.)
  • Utilizing a trust can help you avoid probate altogether – protecting privacy and saving significant amounts of time and money, too.
  • Proper estate planning will ensure that your legacy is better preserved and passed on to your intended beneficiaries in the best possible way.

How much will the right plan cost me? Each estate plan is personalized, ensuring you never pay for more than what you need to accomplish your goals. Because each client has different needs, costs will vary between clients. The cost of preparing and/or maintaining an estate plan with me will almost certainly be significantly less than the costs associated with a conservatorship or probate proceeding.

What is the right plan for me? I’m here to help! Let’s talk!

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