What is Traditional Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of deciding what happens to your property and loved ones when you die in light of sometimes complicated legal rules. In order to preserve the assets that you worked so hard for during your life, we typically, but not always, strive to avoid the time-consuming and expensive default probate system, protect value, and reduce tax liability. Estate planning traditionally include documents such as wills, revocable living trusts, guardian nominations, durable powers of attorney,final instructions, business succession instructions, and advance health care directives.
What is Modern Estate Planning?
Modern estate planning is traditional estate planning adopted necessarily to the changing needs of modern clients and lifestyles. For instance, today, people live longer, but often require extended and expensive medical care for years before they die. Modern estate planners consider how to secure affordable care and protect assets from skyrocketing health care costs. Another example is that blended families are also a concern for those who wish to make sure the divorce and remarriage of spouses and children doesn't mean that their property will not be distributed to their grandchildren. The families of our clients involve people who are often living modern lifestyles and an additional level of legal life planning is necessary and appropriate.
What happens if I die without a will or trust?
You won't determine the answers to questions such as "Who gets what?" California's 'intestate succession laws
' will determine who receives your property. The state will decide how your property is divided and distributed, who will inherit, when, if at all, your children will receive their inheritance. Perhaps, most disturbing, without estate planning, the state's default laws will determine who will receive custody of your young children. Finally, your family members and loved ones will be forced to go through a very public, very long, very expensive, and potentially very contentious probate process at the same time they are grieving your death.
Does planning make sense for me?
One of the most unfortunate things about estate planning in America is that lawyers market themselve almost exclusively to ultra-wealthy individuals. The wealthy are an obvious fit because they almost certainly need to plan to avoid the unfair consequences of default laws, including potentially shocking tax liability. But, it is also true that people should be eager to engage in estate planning if they are single, divorced, they own a business, they have a child or children with special needs, or if they are likely to die with more than $150,000 in assets, which is most everyone who owns a home in California. That's pretty much everyone. I very much enjoy working with young families with a child or children who are not wealthy, yet.