Getting started with Estate Planning
Each client’s estate plan is unique to himself or herself and varies, taking into consideration the client’s dependents, the amount and type of assets owned, the client’s age and health, and the client’s personal values. For example, the main concern of a young couple just starting out, in good heath, and raising young children may be to name someone to care for their children “just in case” they are not able to do so. For those clients a Will may be the best choice. Wills are the traditional, basic estate planning document. A person who makes a Will is called a testator. A Will may be used to name a guardian for minor children, specify wishes for property distribution, nominate persons to administer the estate as executor, and even provide specific instructions for burial.
A more complex estate planning document is a trust. The person who establishes a trust is commonly called a settlor or trustor. A trust can avoid the expense, public exposure, and time consumed with probate. A trust can also provide for management of the settlor’s assets in the event of the settlor’s incapacity, provide for adult children with special needs, handle charitable gifts, manage tax issues, and several other purposes.
If an adult of any age is unable to take care of his or her person and belongings due to dementia, accident, or other causes, California law provides a means to provide for the care of the person and his or her estate by the establishment of a conservatorship of the person or his/her estate through the probate court. The conservatorship process can be costly and distressing for the incapacitated person and his/her family. The two estate planning documents that serve well to avoid conservatorship proceedings are the durable power of attorney for financial matters and the advance health care directive. A durable power of attorney for financial matters is also used to enable a trusted adult to take care of business matters on behalf of a person who is traveling, in the military, or otherwise unavailable. In addition to naming a person to make health care decisions for you when you are unable, the advance health care directive provides detailed personal instructions to your agent and to health care professional about your wishes for care.
The discussion above is intended to provide a glimpse into the aspects of estate planning and is not intended to be exhaustive. Once we have met with you and know the details of your situation we will discuss all options thoroughly so that you can make informed decisions about the plan that is best for you.
The Law Office of Julia Perkins is located in La Mesa, California and serves clients throughout San Diego County. Contact our office today to schedule an estate planning consultation.