A study conducted by Merrill Lynch in 2019 found that almost half of all Americans over the age of 55 did not have a will. To top it off, for those that did have an estate plan, less than 20 percent had all of the recommended documents. Work with a reliable Orange County estate planning attorney to exclude yourself from the data mentioned above.
We don’t yet know if the effects of COVID-19 have prompted more people to update or create the necessary plans to ensure end-of-life care and diminished family burdens upon a loved one’s death. We do know that it should.
Here are the basic elements of a secure estate plan that, with the help of an Orange County estate planning attorney, will allow you to provide for your family even after you’re gone.
An estate plan, at its most basic level, preserves and protects your assets so that, upon your death, they can be easily transferred to your family and friends while minimizing tax obligations.
It also names who will care for your dependent children, as well as your pets, and who will be your advocate in health care and financial matters should you become incapacitated.
Here are the three essential documents to consider when setting up your plan.
This legally enforceable document defines your intentions as to how you would like your assets distributed upon your death. In addition to finances and property, this also includes items that may have considerable sentimental value. Are there family heirlooms that you would like to see go to a specific person?
All assets that are of value, whether monetary or emotional, should be listed in order to avoid family discontent. Eight months after comedian Robin Williams died, his children and widow were still fighting in court over sentimental items.
If you have minor children, you will want to include a designation of guardian. This document recognizes who you have determined will care for your children should you and your spouse pass on. It may also go into effect should both of you become incapacitated and unable to care for your children.
If you don’t make this important decision, the court will make it for you.
Designating a caretaker for your furry loved ones is also a good idea. Too many family pets can end up in shelters if this important decision has not been made and documented in advance.
There are several different types of trusts. These somewhat complex documents are the optimal way to protect and transfer assets.
Keep in mind that the exact laws governing these trusts vary by state. For this reason, and their complex nature, it is highly recommended that you obtain a professional and experienced trust attorney in Orange County.
There are three basic types of trusts.
These types of trusts are named as such because they are revocable, meaning they may be changed or revoked at any time, and they are living or created during your lifetime.
You can remain the trustee until your death, at which time it passes over to the successor trustee. Avoiding probate is the main reason these types of trusts are established.
Assets placed in this type of trust cannot be removed or amended. They are, in fact, effectively removed from your estate and you no longer retain ownership rights once the trust is established.
Because the assets are no longer yours, you will not be responsible for taxes associated with the assets, including income, inheritance, and estate.
A testamentary trust is contained within a will and appoints a trustee to manage the assets of the deceased. It goes into effect immediately upon the death of the trustor.
This type of trust is usually created when a trustee is needed to manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries.
A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to make financial and health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
In some states, the health care POA and the living will which outlines your wishes for life-sustaining treatments, make up the advanced health care directive.
A financial POA authorizes this person to handle your finances and properties should you become unable to.
Once you’ve worked with an Orange County estate planning attorney and created your plan, you’ll want to store your documents in a safe place.
Your original estate plan should not be kept in your safe-deposit box. Why? Because some states seal this box until an estate is settled.
While this is a good place to keep a copy, your original documents should remain with your lawyer, or in a fireproof box at your office or in your home. Be sure to make these documents accessible to your estate’s executor.
In alignment with our current digital age, you can also keep a virtual copy in a safe and secure location in the cloud.
We also recommend giving a copy of certain documents to those that will need them in case you become incapacitated. This includes individuals that you’ve given power of attorney to.
By creating and maintaining a comprehensive estate plan, you help your family avoid an expensive and stressful process during a time when they are already in mourning.
As you can imagine, creating a DIY estate plan is not recommended. The vast amount of state and federal regulations pertaining to these documents makes doing it yourself very risky.
We help our clients prepare plans that allow their families to receive the legacy they’ve left for them, with the greatest tax savings and without lengthy court involvement.
We also assist with end of life health care wishes and ensure the needed documents are in place should a client become incapacitated.
For a free consultation that will lead to peace of mind tomorrow, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.