Estate planning in California differs from estate planning in other states, so it is important to work with someone who understands the state laws that will affect your California estate.
A good estate plan will put your affairs in order, your assets will be properly titled, and will help your loved ones deal with your affairs.
Many people want avoid having their loved ones go through the California probate process to settle their affairs. In California, a probate can take from eight to eighteen months or longer from the date the probate case is filed. As a result your family may have to wait a long time after your death for your affairs to be settled.
Estates that have a gross value of less than $150,000 may avoid a full probate but if real property is involved, may still require court involvement to transfer or distribute the property.
Many people have accumulated more than $150,000 in gross assets, especially when you include the gross value of real property, investment accounts and other assets.
In most cases, creating a Will is just the beginning of the estate planning process. (You don't avoid probate with a Will!)
Trusts are one way method used by Californians to assure that their families avoid the probate process. Although Trusts can expedite the process, your successor trustee should always consult with an attorney so that the legal formalities of Trust Administration are accomplished. Failing to follow the required procedures may cause acrimony between beneficiaries and cause delays in the distribution or sale of property.
Power of Attorney for Financial Management
A power of attorney for financial management is a powerful document that allows you to name someone to act as your agent (in your place) if you cannot act. It is important to carefully consider who you ask to serve as your agent! This document only affects assets that are NOT in your trust (if you have one).
Advance Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive allows you to name one or more people to act for you if you are not able to make or communicate your own health care decisions. This is a very important document and everyone should have one. Go to CANHR's website to download a free copy of the statutory form.
An attorney can help you create a trust (if you need one!), make sure your life insurance and retirement accounts have named-beneficiaries, help you properly title your banking, investment and retirement accounts, and create powers of attorney for finances and health. These actions can help your loved ones care for you when you can't manage on your own and to avoid the probate process and can lead to the settlement of your estate in a timely, cost-effective manner. The will allow your loved ones to focus on and deal with the grief and allow for the prompt settlement of your estate.
I have been helping residents of California create strong estate plans and deal with the disposition of assets after a death for many years and can assist you organize your affairs.
To learn more about how to deal with a probate situation or to the administer a trust after the death of a loved one, or to schedule a consultation to discuss creating a trust, contact Mary at 707.263.5759.