As December turns to January, many Californians turn to thoughts of the year to come and beyond. On occasion, in addition to dieting or joining a gym, this may include thoughts concerning estate planning. It can be difficult to contemplate one's own mortality but failing to provide for one's heirs can cause chaos and heartache at an already difficult time. Conversely, if a person does have a plan in place but has not revisited it in some years, a review may be called for.
When putting together an estate plan in California people take into account family members and others to whom they wish to leave bequests. Also frequently considered are funds to care for children with special needs or other family members who may warrant special consideration. Additionally, people may include, as part of an inheritance, financial provisions to provide continued care for their pets. This used to be seen as being particular to the wealthy. Many people will recall that Leona Helmsley's dog, Trouble, was the beneficiary of a sizable bequest for his continued care.
Older Americans are among the largest age group in California and around the country as the baby boomers continue to enter retirement. Many believe they have good estate plans in place and are enjoying their retirement. They believe that having a will is all that is really needed to have a good plan. Wills alone do not necessarily comprise an estate plan, however.
Estate planning is becoming widely recognized as a necessary step to take in protecting one's assets in California. There's a vocabulary that goes along with it and some find it a bit confusing. Two of the primary terms are wills and trusts. To make the best use of these tools, one should understand the role that each of these documents can play.
Family structures in California have changed over the years. Blended families have become the norm, and this can present challenges where estate planning is concerned. With the addition of second spouses, stepchildren and former spouses, the complexity of formulating a plan for passing on one's estate to one's heirs can seem overwhelming.
In this day and age, it is not unusual for people to marry multiple times and/or to have children out of wedlock. These situations can complicate inheritance and estate planning for the families involved. A recent case in California illustrated the potential complexity of this issue. How terms are defined in one's estate plan can have significant bearing on the identity of one's heirs.
As young people in California reach adulthood, marry and begin families, the issue of an estate plan may cross their minds. But as with so many things at that age, death seems far away and the overwhelming task of facing one's own mortality can become something to be handled tomorrow. The idea of having heirs and an estate to pass on may be a foreign one, as the idea of estate planning often conjures up images of transferring vast sums of money to one's heirs. The majority of people do not have significant sums of money, but that is not necessarily the principal reason for having a plan.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are terms that have entered the vernacular in recent years and are becoming recognized as forms of legitimate assets. The currency can be traded between owners or converted to legal tender. There are elements of it one might want to be aware of when it comes to asset protection and estate planning in California.
Another high-profile death has occurred and may serve as an alert to the public for not only the need for an estate plan in California, but also the need to keep such a plan current. Failure to update wills and other documents can have unintended consequences. John Singleton, a film director best known for directing the movie "Boyz n the Hood" died recently due to complications following a stroke. He was only 51.
It is impossible to predict the future, but there are certain steps a person can take to have legal and financial protections in place. Through wills and other estate planning documents, a person can outline wishes, plan for future medical needs and even make plans to care for loved ones. No two estate plans are the same, and women sometimes have different needs than men.