A well-thought-out estate plan can a variety of inter-connected goals. Along with ensuring that your estate assets are distributed according to your wishes after you are gone, your estate plan can also do things such as plan for the possibility of incapacity, provide for minor children in your absence, and protect assets from all kinds of potential threats. Given the unique nature of estate planning, no two estate plans will be the same. Nevertheless, there are some estate planning documents that really should be executed before you die. The Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC discuss five things to do before you die.
- Create a Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation of most estate plans. Executing a Will ensures that you will not leave behind an intestate estate. Dying intestate means the state decides what happens to your estate assets using the state intestate succession laws. Instead, your Will allows you to make specific and/or general gifts to loved ones. In addition, your Will lets you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. The Executor is responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate. Finally, your Will offers you the only opportunity you have to officially nominate a Guardian for your minor child should one ever be needed. Although you may eventually expand your estate plan, your Will should never be eliminated.
- Establish a Trust. Trusts are routinely found in the average estate plan because of the flexible nature of a trust. A trust is a relationship where property is held by one party for the benefit of another party. A trust is created by the owner, also called a “Settlor”, “Trustor” or “Grantor” who transfers property to a Trustee. The Trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts are broadly divided into two categories, testamentary and living trusts. A testamentary trust does not activate until after the death of the Settlor whereas a living trust takes effect as soon as all the trust agreement is in place and the trust is funded. A living trust can be further divided into revocable and irrevocable living trusts. A trust can help achieve a wide variety of estate planning goals and can even serve as the foundation of you estate plan if probate avoidance is desirable.
- Execute Advance Directives. There may come a time in your life when you cannot make health care decisions for yourself because of your own incapacity. Advance directives help you plan for that possibility. The State of California recognizes the following types of advance directives:
- Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Individual Instructions (California’s “Living Will”)
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
- Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
- Write a Letter of Instructions. As the name implies, this document is really just a letter that allows you to explain decisions made in your estate plan or addresses issues not covered elsewhere in your plan. A Letter of Instructions is not a legally binding document; however, it can go a long way toward preventing conflict and litigation if you have made decisions within your plan that may be controversial or confusing to loved ones.
- Make a Funeral Plan. Incorporating a funeral planning component into your estate plan serves two important purposes. First, it ensures that your wishes will be honored regarding your funeral and burial. Second, it can arrange for the payment of your funeral and burial so that your family and loved ones are not required to deal with the financial aspect while grieving your loss.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.
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