The majority of California residents, like others around the country, have likely given little thought to what life will be like for their loved ones after they have passed. Most have not gone through the process of estate planning because they believe it is not necessary unless someone has a certain amount of assets. However, certain issues such as guardianship of children and health care are critical for everyone, regardless of income level. Experts weigh in on the importance of creating an estate plan.

Financial counselors recommend that everyone have an advance directive. This should include a living will that specifies the type of health care a person desires. The directive also needs to designate a medical power of attorney that names someone to carry out those wishes. Without these, the risk of confusion among health care professionals and family members is more likely.

All professionals giving input to the estate plan need to work together. For example, someone may have a tax expert, an attorney and a financial advisor developing the plan. Everyone needs to fully understand a person’s goals and desires to create a comprehensive estate plan that will provide adequate protection.

Another suggestion is to consider creating a trust that protects survivors from the probate process. Also, experts recommend not listing children’s names as homeowners or on bank accounts. Problems with capital gains taxes or inheritance taxes can arise when one sibling is listed and not others. Finally, counselors are touting the benefits of an ethical will. This document can share advice, wishes and dreams for loved ones.

The bottom line is that estate planning is not just for the wealthy. Everyone can benefit from having plans in place to protect their assets and their loved ones’ interests. A California estate planning attorney can work with clients to understand their specific needs and develop a plan that is best suited for them.

Source: The Huffington Post, “You Don’t Have to Own an Estate to Do Estate Planning!“, Anthony Cirillo, Aug. 7, 2017