Another new year has arrived, and many people’s thoughts turn to the future as they consider goals and accomplishments to be pursued in the coming months. For many in California, this may include the task of estate planning. While contemplating one’s passing may not be appealing, failure to plan can result in increased heartache for loved ones and drawn-out legal proceedings in settling one’s estate. This can be both financially and emotionally costly to loved ones.
As with so many other projects people undertake, knowledge and understanding of what comprises a comprehensive and successful estate plan will contribute to a good outcome and facilitate the project overall. There are some pitfalls to avoid and there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to documents such as wills, trusts, medical directives and so forth. Boilerplate documents that are basically “fill in the blanks” may not meet all of a person’s needs.
In addition to ensuring one has the proper documents in place, there is also the issue of the trustee. While the testator can serve as trustee during one’s lifetime, it can cause complications in the event of serious illness. If a person succumbs to dementia or Alzheimer’s, a trusted person should be in the position of being able to make changes as needed while keeping the best interest of the principal in mind. This can be accomplished through setting up a co-trustee who may be a trusted child, financial advisor or professional trustee.
Estate planning can appear to be an overwhelming task that one may be reluctant to undertake. The reality is that failing to have a plan in place can create an overwhelming task for loved ones if a person passes away with no plan in place. An important first step may be discussing options with one’s family and then consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in California who can assist one in creating a comprehensive plan that meets one’s needs.