Estate planning in California is a necessary protective measure that residents can use to support a more secure and sound financial status. The trusts, wills, powers of attorney and other documents that make up the process must be part of a strategic plan that takes into account all of the person’s financial circumstances. Setting up a system of legal protection for one’s assets and financial goals is far better than the alternative, which is to allow the courts to decide how and where a person’s assets will be distributed after death.
When preparing an estate plan, a person may be well-advised to consider some preparations for personal and financial care if and when the person becomes incapacitated. If staying in one’s home is a primary concern, purchasing long-term care insurance early can be beneficial. Premiums will be smaller, and one can strategize with the estate planning attorney on the options available.
When an estate plan is put into place, review of one’s assets every few years is a necessary part of having effective control over it. Remember that not every document is included technically as a part of the estate plan. Life insurance does not pass through the estate, but the proceeds go directly to the listed beneficiary. These are valuable assets, but generally they are not regulated by wills and trusts. For that reason, the beneficiary designations must be regularly reviewed and updated where necessary.
The same applies to retirement and investment accounts, which pass directly to the named beneficiary. There are also legal instruments that supersede what is provided in wills and trusts. For example, a real estate deed may contain a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, which passes title to the survivor by operation of law. The asset does not generally go through the estate probate process. With so many different ways to protect and distribute one’s assets, it is recommended that California residents prepare an estate plan carefully in cooperation with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney.