WHO NEEDS ESTATE PLANNING? Whatever the size of your estate, you should designate the person who, in the event of your incapacity, will have the responsibility for the management of your assets and your care, including the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf.
If your estate is small, you may focus simply on who is to receive your assets after your death, and who should be in charge of its management and distribution. If your estate is large, I will discuss with you not only who is to receive your assets and when, but also various ways to preserve your assets or postpone the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable on your death.
If you do no planning, then California law will determine who receives your property and when they receive it.
WHY DO I NEED A WILL? In a Will, you can name the individuals or organizations to receive your assets when you die, and you can specify how much, or what, will be given to each beneficiary. Without a Will, California law determines your beneficiaries, and what each person receives.
In a Will, you nominate the person (executor) who will manage your estate, pay your debts, expenses, and any taxes that may be due, and distribute your remaining assets to your beneficiaries.
If you have minor children, it is important to nominate, in your Will, a guardian to care for your children and manage their inheritance.
SHOULD I HAVE A TRUST? In a revocable trust, you arrange for the management of your assets-- during your life and after your death.
If, during your lifetime, you are unable to manage your finances and property, there is no need for a court of law to appoint a conservator when your assets are held in a trust.
Assets in a trust do not pass through probate. If your goal is to avoid the expense, delay, and public disclosure of probate, then a trust is a good option.
Assets in a trust are not subject to Medi-Cal reimbursement claims.
If you do not want your children to have unrestricted access to their inheritance when they reach age 18, you can specify, in your trust, a more suitable age for distribution.
If you have a special-needs child, or an adult child with a drug or alcohol problem, your trust can provide on-going management of their inheritance.