For many California residents, preparing an estate plan can feel like a daunting task. It is understandable. There are a lot of things to consider -- such as what estate planning documents are actually necessary -- and figuring it all out can be overwhelming.
The good thing about estate plans is that they are completely customizable to your needs. Yes, there are standard forms, but an attorney can help you make them truly yours. It is all about what you put in them and how you write them. So, what estate planning documents should one consider?
Will, trusts or both
A will, trust or both, generally makes up the bulk of an estate plan. However, not everyone needs a will and not everyone needs a trust. It all comes down to the type of assets you have to pass on, how you want them distributed and if you have any special concerns that need to be addressed. If you create a will or trust, how you word it is going to be very important in order to avoid contests in the future.
Financial power of attorney
Who is going to take care of your financial affairs if you become incapacitated? If you want to have a say in the matter, a financial power of attorney is what you need. The person to whom you grant financial power of attorney will have the ability to gain access to all your accounts, pay your bills and even handle real estate transactions in your name -- among other things.
Health care power of attorney and advance directives
Who do you want to make medical decisions for you if you cannot? Is there any treatment you do or do not want? With a health care power of attorney, you can decide who you want to make your treatment decisions. With advance directives, you can provide specific information about your wants and wishes so that you still have a voice and your personal representative has some direction.
Do you have minor children? Who will take care of them if you died today or become incapacitated? By naming a guardian, you get to choose who will take on the role of raising your children. Without it, a judge will get to decide.
Get answers to your estate planning questions
These are just a few of the many estate planning documents available to you. If you require more information about these and the others out there, an experienced attorney may be able to help.