You worked hard for decades in California to make sure your loved ones would be safe and sheltered when you passed away. You want to decide for yourself to whom your money goes. You certainly do not want it to be wasted and vanish into thin air.
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What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is creating legal documents that specify your wishes in distributing your estate to your heirs.
A highly effective and comprehensive Estate Plan is one that accurately conveys your general and specific wishes. It is also fully funded, makes provisions for incapacity and medical emergencies, and protects your family and legacy while you are alive and after you have passed.
At the Field Law Firm, our Estate Plans are fully comprehensive Legacy Wealth Portfolios that include the following:
- Living Trust
- Pour-Over Will
- Durable Power of Attorney for Property
- Advanced Health Care Directive and HIPPA Documents
Why is Estate Planning necessary?
If you do not engage in estate planning before your death, a probate judge will appoint an estate administrator. This designated person will be required to ensure that all your creditors are satisfied first. Once that is complete, they will distribute whatever remains of your assets and personal belongings to your heirs based on a government enacted statute. Neither you nor your descendants get any say in who receives your finances, property, or heirlooms. This lack of agency often leads to excessive in-fighting amongst the heirs to your estate as they battle in court over who should receive what.
Not only is the process public, but it will also likely take several years. During this time, your estate may be severely depleted by all the expenses related to probate: court fees, probate referees, attorney fees in addition to the ongoing mortgage payments, real estate maintenance, property taxes, and more. Do not leave your surviving loved ones to watch helplessly as third parties control the process, waste your descendants’ time, and help only themselves.
Because the process is public, creditors and predators have access to your loved ones' personal information. This uncensored access can put them at risk of scams and other nefarious plans. When you have a comprehensive estate plan, you will save your loved one's time and resources while also preventing in-fighting over family heirlooms.
You cannot plan your death, but you can plan what will happen if you die.
How can you avoid probate?
There are many tools available to avoid probate in California. There are tools to help avoid paying fees and taxes or selling assets at discount prices. There are also tools to prevent total strangers from being in control of important decisions. A few of these tools are:
- Have joint ownership;
- Make gifts;
- Name beneficiaries in contracts;
- Use trusts;
- Use a durable power of attorney;
- Name an executor;
- Designate a health care agent;
- Open a transfer-on-death account.
These tools can be of great assistance, but it is crucial to understand that they can be incomplete and equally problematic when incorrectly used. For instance, joint ownership can trigger living probate if one of the individuals named is incapacitated. Trusts are effective only if they are prepared accurately with your specific needs in mind; otherwise, they are considered bare-bones trusts that are worth less than the paper on which they are printed. When creating a trust, all of your assets must be titled in the name of your trust.
When you rely on incomplete or incorrect devices to carry out your wishes, it comes at the expense of your family and estate – the very things you were attempting to protect.
Estate planning is easy and costs less if you do it right away.
The tools above can help you avoid probate. They cannot, however, actively preserve and protect your legacy like a comprehensive Estate Plan. At the Field Law Firm, we believe that your story is worth cherishing and sharing with future generations. Our Legacy Wealth Plan not only puts together a legally accurate and effective Trust and Estate Plan but also helps you preserve your non-financial legacy.
At its core, Estate Planning is supposed to help families directly. It accomplishes this by shielding them from the complications of probate and accurately distributing their wealth while also giving them tools to navigate the loss of a loved one.
Stop Procrastinating. Start Planning.
One of the main reasons why people fail to create an estate plan is procrastination. They put off this important work because they either do not deem it necessary or are unwilling to face their mortality. When you wait for an emergency to drive your need for an estate plan, it is often too late to avoid the messiness of probate.
We know that putting together a plan is a daunting task. That is why we at the Field Law Firm commit to walking with our clients through the entire process.
Do not wait for the worst-case scenario. Call attorney Jeffrey Field at 818 369-7900 or send us an email for a FREE consultation.
La Crescenta-based attorney Jeffrey Field is the California probate and estate planning attorney best positioned to answer all your questions regarding estate planning and probate law. As a Certified Tax Coach and Certified Financial Planner® and a former CFO (chief financial officer), accountant, and stockbroker, Jeff Field has a unique understanding of the complexities of asset protection and management, as well as of the California probate law.