–Just about everyone can benefit from an estate plan, even without being wealthy, owning a home, or having numerous assets. Getting started can sometimes seem overwhelming and the Daner Law Firm, providing estate planning in Atascadero, CA, has some answers to help clear up some of the challenges to setting up an estate plan.
Estate planning helps ensure that any possession and other assets are distributed according to an individual’s wishes upon their death, provide for the management of possessions and holdings during their lifetime, and includes planning for incapacity, eliminating uncertainties of probate, and minimizing other estate liabilities.
The most common questions can be grouped into the following:
- Why do I need an estate plan?
- What if I don’t have any assets?
- How do I start?
- What if I have a prenuptial agreement?
- What if something changes?
The answers to these questions that are provided here are guidelines to help people understand more about estate planning and how it is of value to just about everyone. These answers can also help people organize their thoughts with a look to the future for their families and other beneficiaries.
Why do I need an estate plan?
An estate plan designates who will receive your assets and handle certain responsibilities after your death or if you should become incapacitated. The goal of an estate plan is to make sure your wishes are carried out when you are no longer to make decisions.
What if I don’t have any assets?
Many things people don’t usually think about can be included in an estate plan besides investments and real property. Estate plans can include directives that address a variety of things, including, but not limited to:
- Retirement accounts
- Future assets
- Savings accounts
- Dependent children and even dependent adults
- Health care directives, better known as Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) or “Living Will.” The AHCD specifies your wishes for medical treatment in the event of life-threatening injury or illness, who can oversee your care, your end-of-life wishes, and who can make decisions on your behalf.
- Heirlooms and collectibles
Even for those who believe they don’t have any assets, a visit with an estate planning attorney can be valuable. It’s easy to download a form for a will or AHCD from the Internet, but there may be conditions that these generic types of forms miss. It's well worth a legal consultation to make sure your wishes are as ironclad as possible.
It's also well worth a legal consultation to discover that you may have more assets than you think, and certainly well worth a consultation to discuss future considerations.
How do I start?
Start by taking an inventory that includes:
- Are you married, in a domestic partnership, planning on getting married, divorced or separated?
- Do you have children?
- Are you planning on having children?
- Do you have a retirement account or savings?
- Do you have any investments or life insurance policies?
- Do you own any real estate or part-interest in any real estate?
- Are you expecting an inheritance?
- Do you have jewelry, art, heirlooms or collectibles of any value?
- Include vehicles and other personal property, whether paid for or not.
- Are you planning on buying a home?
- Are you a business owner or a partner in a business?
- Do you have a serious illness?
The answers to all of the above, and more that might come up during a consultation, help provide a snapshot of an estate you may not even know existed. The next steps include assigning values to property, identify beneficiaries, establish your directives for the disposition of assets, and designate trustees to administer your directives, including your AHCD.
What if I have a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement, even a post-nuptial agreement, should be part of an estate plan and reviewed regularly along with your estate plan. It is also important to review prenuptial agreements when an estate plan is first created. Prenuptial agreements can influence how assets are distributed.
What if something changes?
Life changes and your wishes may change as well. Estate plans need to be reviewed periodically. Life events that prompt reviews include:
- Marriage or divorce
- Birth or loss of a child
- Change in beneficiaries, including charitable donations
- Change in assets
- Illness or injury
- Change of job or a promotion
- Starting a new business
- Selling a business
- Passing time —the value of assets changes over time
Talk to an expert
Mr. Adam M Daner, Esq. of Daner Law Firm, APLC assists clients with all aspects of estate planning. Some of the more important estate planning documents include wills, trusts, AHCD, guardianship for minor children and disabled or incapacitated adults, and Power of Attorney.
A properly and legally documented estate not only makes sure that the estate is managed and distributed according to one’s wishes upon their death, but it is also important for avoiding probate. Probate is a court process that is activated when someone dies without a will or if the will is contested. The court evaluates the estate holdings or the will then distributes the holdings according to state law, which is not always according to your wishes.
Contact Daner Law Firm to get your estate plan started.
Daner Law Firm, APLC
4555 El Camino Real, Unit J
Atascadero CA 93422
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