Estate planning involves deciding what you want to occur when you die and which of your trusted contacts may be empowered to manage those assets when you aren’t here. However, there are many misconceptions about estate planning, reports a recent article from Kiplinger, “It’s Estate Planning Week: Here’s How to Get Started.” Let’s set the record straight.
An estate plan can be as complicated or simple as you wish. For some, an estate plan may require a last will and testament to describe how you want your assets distributed upon death. If you have a large estate with many assets and complex goals, you could use a trust or a combination of trusts to administer assets after death.
For example, if you want to leave money for grandchildren but don’t want them to be able to access the funds until they reach a certain age or milestone, you could have a specific trust created for each beneficiary with descriptive language to explain what has to happen before the assets are distributed.
For married spouses, an estate plan typically leaves the assets to the surviving spouse and then, at the second spouse’s passing, includes instructions on who receives the assets. If there are no children, or you don’t want family members to inherit assets, you can use your estate plan to designate a charity or charities to receive gifts of cash or other assets.
Creating an estate plan involves creating an up-to-date balance sheet listing assets. How much you leave to heirs depends on whether you’ve spent your assets before you die or have significant liabilities.
You’ll need to name trustees to manage the assets if you establish trusts. You’ll also want to name successor trustees who can take over if the original trustee cannot serve. Talk with your trustees and successor trustees to be sure they are willing to take on the responsibility since they will be in charge of the assets and need to make important financial decisions.
If your estate plan relies on a last will, you’ll need to name an executor who manages the estate, distributes assets, pays taxes, and more. This person should be someone you trust implicitly. If you fail to name an executor, the court may appoint a representative.
An estate planning attorney will be familiar with any state-specific estate tax issues as well as federal estate tax issues. You’ll want to include your financial advisor and CPA to ensure that the estate plan works with all aspects of your life.
The estate plan isn’t completed until all documents have been signed and notarized and all assets are titled correctly. If assets are to be placed in a trust, your estate planning attorney will help you title assets to be sure the trust owns them and not your estate. If assets aren’t re-titled correctly, you may lose the benefit of the estate planning process. Check in with your estate planning attorney every three to five years to be sure your estate plan still works. Family relationships and tax laws change, so estate plans need to be reviewed regularly. For example, the current federal estate tax exemption is $12.92 million for an individual, but unless Congress acts, this will sunset in 2025, when the exemption will revert to $5 million per person.
If you need help getting your estate plan started, or if you need a probate attorney, we are always happy to help. Our probate attorneys in Los Angeles can guide you through it.
If you have any questions, schedule a free appointment with us through our online appointment page.
You can also read reviews from some of the hundreds of clients we have helped over the years.
Reference: Kiplinger (Oct. 16, 2023) “It’s Estate Planning Week: Here’s How to Get Started”
Founded in 1975 by L. Rob Werner and serving California for over 48 years, our dedicated attorneys are available for clients, friends, and family members to receive the legal help they need and deserve. You can trust in our experience and reputation to help navigate you through your unique legal matters.
Whether you need help creating a living trust or navigating probate, our living trust law firm's compassionate team of estate planning lawyers and probate lawyers are here to help you and ready to answer your questions.
Our goal is to make your case as easy as possible for you. Hiring a lawyer can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. From the moment you contact our firm, through the final resolution of your case, our goal is to make the process easy and understandable. We cannot change the fact that probate is a long and complicated process, but through our Werner Law Firm Difference, we strive to go out of our way to keep you informed of your case through every step of the way. We are constantly refining our processes and procedures for a more streamlined and calm client experience. Our goal is to have you feel like a burden was lifted from your shoulders, and that we made the whole process an easy one
If you're dealing with a legal matter, we urge you to schedule a free initial appointment today and join the many satisfied clients who have contacted Werner Law Firm.
23 Corporate Plaza Dr., Suite 150
Newport Beach, California 92660