• Carol Highfill

Estate Planning FAQs

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning arranges for the transfer of an individual's property after death and may involve a will and/or trust, or the application of state intestacy laws.

What happens to my assets when I die?

Generally, your assets will go to your family. If you had an estate plan, your assets would go exactly how you planned they would be distributed.

What is Probate?

Probate is a court supervised procedure to identify all assets owned by a person who has recently passed away, identify the creditors and beneficiaries, and the distribution of assets accordingly.

What are the Advantages of a Trust?

Having a trust would help drastically as it helps avoid probate, which is a process which is public, costly, and time-consuming.

What is a revocable trust?

A revocable trust is a substitute for a will, and distributes your property in the same manner.

What if I have additional assets?

As you acquire additional assets, you must be careful in add those assets to your trust.

What if I die without a will?

If you don't have one in place, the California state laws of intestacy will decide where your assets will go.

What happens to my assets if I die in intestacy?

The state will decide what will happen to your assets and distribute them among family members or heirs. This can be a costly process and one that can be avoided.

Why do I need an estate plan?

By having an estate plan, you will provide your family with peace of mind. Moreover, proper planning can save your estate thousands in court related expenses.

What are the basics of an estate plan?

Every person is unique, which means every estate planning strategy needs to fit each individual’s situation. However, there are certain basic components to consider when creating an effective estate plan.

These include:

  • A simple will (or one addressing a more complicated estate).

  • Guardianship/conservatorship, where your will names guardians for minor children, and a conservatorship for anyone else who might need help managing their affairs.

  • Durable powers of attorney—a trusted friend, family member, lawyer, accountant, etc., who can act on your behalf during your incapacity.

  • Health care directives—instructions on what to do if your condition changes, such as end-of-life care or mental capacity.

  • A living trust—where you transfer ownership of important assets to another party before you die.

  • An advance healthcare directive—which gives someone authority to decide whether life support measures should be used, including CPR and artificial nutrition and hydration.

What do you want to have in an estate plan?

You may need to create an estate plan if you have children or significant financial assets like a home, car, investment portfolio, retirement account, etc.

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