Everyone has an estate. While many people mistakenly believe estate planning is only for the wealthy, the reality is that you need to make provisions for your money and property even if you do not have millions of dollars in the bank. Estate planning is also about more than just protecting your assets and leaving a legacy. By creating a comprehensive estate plan, you can take more control over your future.
The Schomer Law Group provides legal representation with the estate planning process to clients of all ages, and to clients at all income levels. Our Los Angeles estate planning attorneys can help you to make the best use of the full array of legal tools available to you to control your own future, to protect yourself, and to protect those who you love. Give us a call as soon as possible so our legal team can put together a personalized plan for you and so we can answer key questions including:
- Why is estate planning important?
- What is involved in creating an estate plan?
- How can a Los Angeles estate planning lawyer help you?
Why is Estate Planning Important?
Estate planning is important because:
- You need to protect your legacy. Estate planning involves using legal tools to keep assets safe from creditors and divorce, to reduce or eliminate taxes on estates, and to make sure assets are managed carefully. With a comprehensive estate plan in place, you can ensure you have money and property to hand down to your loved ones.
- You need to protect your autonomy. Do you want to choose who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated or do you want a court choosing for you? Do you want to decide what kinds of extraordinary life saving medical care you will receive if you become badly injured or are seriously ill? If so, you need an estate plan.
- You need to protect your loved ones. You don’t want your family to fight about asset division or about the medical care you should be receiving. You don’t want your family to end up in court if you become incapacitated or pass away. You don’t want a gift you give to a disabled family member to cause loss of access to government benefits. In order to make sure you are doing everything possible to protect your loved ones, you need a comprehensive estate plan. This is especially important for people with minor children who should name a guardian and who should make sure that there are financial resources available to care for kids into adulthood.
These are just a few of many reasons why everyone should have an estate plan. Your plan will be customized to your goals and your needs, so you should speak with a Los Angeles estate planning lawyer specifically about why estate planning is important for you.
What is Involved in Creating an Estate Plan?
The specific process of creating an estate plan may be different for different people. However, the creation of a plan involves using a wide variety of legal tools at your disposal. For example, your plan may include:
- A last will and testament, so you can name a guardian for your kids, dictate how you want to be buried, and determine how your assets should be divided.
- Trusts, so you can ensure you don’t have to spend down assets if you need Medi-Cal to pay for a nursing home; so you can protect money and property from being lost or squandered by beneficiaries; and so you can reduce or avoid estate taxes.
- An advanced medical directive and/or do not resuscitate order so you can ensure you don’t get life-prolonging care when you don’t have any quality of life and so you can save your family from making the choice to pull the plug.
- A power of attorney so you can name the person who will be in charge of managing your affairs and making your decisions if you cannot speak for yourself any longer.
A Los Angeles estate planning lawyer will help you to explore all of the different steps you should take to make sure your plan is comprehensive and accomplishes your goals.
What Happens If You Die Without an Estate Plan?
If you pass away without any estate planning documents at all, the condition is called “intestacy.” Under these circumstances, the probate court would supervise during the estate administration process.
They would appoint a personal representative to handle the estate administration tasks. This is usually the closest relative of the decedent. Final debts will be paid during probate, and if anyone wants to contend that they are in line for an inheritance, they can present an argument.
In many cases, there can be family disagreements when there is no document stating the final wishes of the decedent in no uncertain terms. Even if everyone is on the same page, the process can be confusing and time-consuming.
Ultimately, the assets would be distributed in accordance with the intestate succession laws of the state of California. Under these circumstances, people that you would have never left out could be disinherited or shortchanged.
There is no reason to roll the dice with intestacy when qualified estate planning assistance is just a phone call away.
Why Do You Need an Estate Planning Lawyer?
There are websites that sell boilerplate, fill-in-the-blanks worksheets and downloads that you can use to create legal documents. They contend that it is easy to plan your own estate, and you really do not need an attorney to put an estate plan in place.
If you stop and think about it logically, your estate is comprised of all the property that you have been able to accumulate throughout your life. It is going to be transferred to the people that you love the most, and this will be your final act of giving.
This is a very profound endeavor, and you should take it quite seriously. You routinely engage all different types of professionals when you have to take care of certain responsibilities because they have expertise that you lack .
Why would you decide that you can take on this important task by yourself without any legal counsel?
Plus, there are many different asset transfer methods that can be utilized. A layperson would not be aware of all the possibilities that exist and why you would use one vehicle instead of another. When you act with insufficient information, costly mistakes can be made.
On the other hand, when you work with an attorney to develop your estate plan, you are not incurring an expense. You are making an investment that will yield dividends, and you might save money in the long run.
Have You Contemplated Your Legacy?
A bare-bones estate plan is one thing, but a legacy plan is another. You can consciously shape your legacy when you are making your final decisions, and it will influence the way that people remember you.
Direct monetary inheritances are not the only consideration. You can make sure that your grandchildren have the financial backing that they need to go to college. Some people are in a position to set aside resources for charitable causes and/or institutions.
When you are devising a legacy plan, you can also put your writing skills to work. You can share your memoirs so that family members can get a better understanding of your path, and you can pass along your moral and spiritual values in an ethical will.
Family heirlooms will also enter the picture. You can go through all of the items that you have in your possession and choose the ideal caretaker for each one of them.
If you take the time to carefully consider the details, you can leave a rich legacy and add a lasting chapter to your family history.
Have You Reviewed Your Existing Plan?
Your initial estate plan is going to be based on a snapshot of your life situation at that time. The only constant is change, and your family dynamic may evolve over the years.
There can be additions and subtractions to the family, a change in marital status, and you could be in a different financial position. Your inheritance decisions can shift over time, and new laws can be passed that can trigger the need for estate plan updates.
In some cases, you will know that you should work with an attorney to update your plan, but procrastination is not uncommon. Even if you are not aware of any changes that should be made, you should schedule periodic reviews to make sure that your estate plan is current.
How Can a Los Angeles Estate Planning Lawyer Help You?
A Los Angeles estate planning lawyer can provide you with invaluable assistance in setting goals for your future and in taking concrete steps to achieve those goals. When protecting yourself, your family, and your legacy are priorities, the Schomer Law Group is here to help. If you want to find out how we approach our relationships with our clients, check out this video.
You can call us at 310-337-7676 if you are ready to schedule a consultation, and there is a contact form on this site you can use if you would prefer to send us a message.