Though most people hope that they have a family that gets along without a hitch, that is not the case for a considerable number of families. In fact, siblings and other relatives can often find themselves at odds. As a result, some people may have concerns that their heirs will fight over their remaining estate.
The new year is still young and many people are still working on resolutions to get more exercise, eat better and in general take better care of themselves in order to help ensure a long and healthy life. Yet no matter what people may do, unthinkable tragedies can still occur. A helicopter crash in California recently took the life of the basketball star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and the lives of seven others who were traveling with them. Kobe Bryant was only 41. In addition to working to protect one's health, one should also formulate an estate plan for asset protection that will in turn protect one's heirs.
Figuring out how individuals want their worldly affairs handled after their deaths can be daunting. For this reason, many people in California and across the country create their wills and think they are finished with the difficult process of estate planning. However, nearly everything in life is constantly changing, and an outdated estate plan could cause problems.
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.