There are many different reasons you may require estate planning services, such as preserving the wealth of your family, ensuring distribution of property and assets to your surviving spouse and children, funding education for children or grandchildren, or making sure that your assets are given to a charitable organization of your choosing.
As one of the premier law firms in California, our attorneys have the experience to draft the necessary documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event you pass away or become mentally incapacitated.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for your assets and property for the future. Some of the common forms of estate planning include drafting a will or a trust. You can also choose to plan for health issues by creating health care directives, such as appointing someone power of attorney in the event you cannot make your own medical decisions. It is a good idea to engage in some form of estate planning to ensure that your wishes are honored when you pass away or if you become mentally incapacitated.
Overview of Estate Planning Services
When you hire an attorney to handle your estate planning needs, there are certain services you can choose to incorporate into your estate plans. These services include wills, trusts, health care directives, tuition funds, and other plans.
Some tasks involved in estate planning that our attorneys can assist you with include naming a guardian for your dependents, establishing an executor of your estate to ensure the terms of your will are properly followed, setting up your funeral arrangements per your wishes, naming a person to hold the title of power of attorney to direct distribution of other assets and financial investments, creating or updating your beneficiaries on things like IRAs, life insurance, and 401(k) accounts. We can also assist you in establishing trust accounts in the names of your beneficiaries and work with you to minimize estate taxes where possible.
Estate Planning Strategies
The best estate planning strategy for you will depend on the assets you wish to protect or distribute and the method by which you plan to do so. One of the most important estate planning strategies is to have a plan for handling taxes. When dealing with monetary assets, one strategy to minimize estate taxes is to create a trust for a beneficiary. If you plan to donate money to charity, you can plan to make your donations while you are alive, which can reduce the size of your estate, having the effect of lowering your estate tax bill.
Creating an Estate Plan
Creating an estate plan that works for you can be done in a few easy steps. As with most legal matters, it is a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you. The starting point for most people should be to have a will drafted. If however, you have assets totaling more than $150,000, or an interest in real estate greater than $50,000, you may wish to have trusts created for your beneficiaries to help them avoid having to go through probate court.
Additional steps in the process include creating an advanced health care directive (which gives another person the power to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so) and naming a person to be the financial power of attorney. Next, you may wish to choose someone to manage any monetary assets or property that you pass on to your dependents, particularly your children or minors.
After you have completed the above steps, you may want to consider whether obtaining life insurance makes sense for you. If it does, purchase life insurance. The next step in creating an estate plan is to name beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, bank accounts, and life insurance and file the required documents.
Next, you may wish to make arrangements for any funeral-related expenses. You can set up an account specifically for this purpose which will make it much easier on your loved ones at a time that will be quite difficult for them. At this time, you will also want to consider your end-of-life wishes regarding organ donation and whether you want a burial or cremation. If you own a business, it is also important to create a succession plan.
What You Will Need for Estate Planning
The estate planning process requires several documents. You will want to do a thorough review of all assets and property you own to ensure that you are accounting for everything that you own that you wish to include in your will and estate. You will also want to review insurance policies and other documentation to make sure that you are following the proper procedures to name your beneficiaries. You also need titles to any property you own, as well as any financial records for any accounts and funds that you own. Having all of the proper financial documentation of assets and property will help you and your attorney in the estate planning process.
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Storing Your Estate Plan and Important Documents
Once you have finalized your estate plan, you need to be sure that you keep the associated documents in a safe and accessible location. Keep in mind that you will want your will to be in an accessible location so that it is found. The last thing you want is to go through the process of carefully making an estate plan and then it cannot be followed because your will was not found.
Some people may choose to keep a copy of their will in a safe deposit box. If you choose this option, it is a good idea to put the box in the name of your revocable living trust. If you put the box in the name of your revocable living trust, then the successor trustee of your trust will be able to access the box and the will inside. If your estate plan does not include a revocable living trust, you can also opt to have someone you trust added as a joint owner to the box. They will then be able to access the safe deposit box when the time comes.
Another option for storing your estate plan and associated documents is to leave them with your estate planning attorney. The executor of your estate or the designated personal representative can be another option for whom you can leave your estate planning documentation.
Ready to Get Started? Contact Your Local Estate Planning Attorney Today
At Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc. we are committed to delivering personalized legal guidance to you that is individually tailored to your unique circumstances. If you are ready to get started on creating an estate plan, contact us today at 707-867-0787 or fill out our online contact form.