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What Do I Need In My California Estate Plan?

East Bay estate plan attorney

Attorney Helping Clients Understand Estate Planning Options in San Francisco County

Recent research indicates that around 60 percent of American adults do not have a will, let alone other important elements of an estate plan. One reason for this may be that many people simply do not know where to begin. Unfortunately, without an estate plan in place, you may leave your family in a difficult position if something unexpected happens, and in some cases, decisions regarding your person and property could be left up to the State of California.

Thankfully, it is possible to avoid all of these issues by putting in the time to create an estate plan while you are still able. At the Law Office of Martin Alperen, we provide legal services related to all elements of estate planning in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our goal is to simplify the process and help you understand the options that are right for you.

San Francisco Estate Planning Necessities

As you begin to contemplate your estate plan, one of your first questions will likely be, "What do I need to include?" It is often best to start with the essentials that nearly every estate plan should have, namely:

  • A last will and testament: Your will is one of the most important documents in your estate plan, and it is often one of the easiest places to start. You should list all of your assets and properties along with the people to whom you wish to leave them after your death. You should also name a trusted executor who will administer the terms of your will, and if you have minor children, you should include the nomination of a guardian who would take responsibility for caring for them.
  • A durable power of attorney: If you become physically or mentally incapacitated before your death, you will likely want to have a durable power of attorney in place allowing a spouse, family member, or trusted friend to make decisions and take action to manage your finances and provide for your personal care.
  • An advance health care directive: A health care directive ensures that in the event of your incapacitation, you have left instructions regarding your preferences for medical treatment and care, and that you have designated someone you trust to make any necessary decisions related to your healthcare.

Trusts: A Strong Consideration

While it is possible to pass on nearly all of your assets through your last will and testament, you should not overlook the potential benefits of trusts. A trust gives you greater control over the manner in which your assets are distributed, rather than relying on the probate process in which everything is distributed at once. The two primary types of trusts are:

  • A revocable living trust: A living trust allows you to maintain access to assets during your lifetime and designate beneficiaries who will receive them after your death. This can be a useful option for properties like your home and bank accounts.
  • An irrevocable trust: An irrevocable trust removes assets from the value of your estate, which can be useful to protect them from creditors, avoid federal estate taxes, or qualify for Medicaid benefits. Though you cannot access assets once they are placed in an irrevocable trust, you can determine how to distribute them to your beneficiaries.

Additional Elements to Consider

Depending on your needs and preferences, you may also wish to include:

  • A letter of intent: If you value your legacy, you may wish to create a letter of intent that leaves your surviving family and friends with a personal message in your voice and additional information about how you would like your assets to be used after your death.
  • A business succession plan: If you own all or part of a business, you should consider creating a plan for passing your share to a worthy successor or allowing your partners to purchase it and maintain control of the business.

Contact a Bay Area Estate Planning Lawyer

We want to help you create an estate plan that meets your own personal needs, and the best way for us to understand your goals and priorities is to start with a free initial consultation when you contact us at 415-534-1200. We will give you our best advice based on decades of legal experience and treat you with the care and attention that you deserve as you make important decisions for the benefit of yourself and your family. We can travel to you anywhere throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, the Peninsula, the East Bay, the North Bay, and the surrounding areas.

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