One reason many people do not develop an estate plan is that they believe the estate-planning process is difficult. They do not understand the process or what information they need for an estate plan. A California estate-planning attorney can simplify the estate-planning process by guiding you through each step, including preparing an estate-planning checklist for you.
Estate-Planning Checklist – Basic Estate Planning Documents
It can help to have a basic knowledge of the various types of estate-planning documents you might use when you develop your estate plan. Below is a checklist of estate-planning documents to discuss with an estate-planning lawyer.
- Last Will and Testament (“Will”) – the basic estate-planning document that directs how your assets are distributed after your death. You can also appoint a guardian for minor children in your Will.
- Powers of Attorney — allow you to appoint an agent to handle financial matters and health care decisions.
- Trust Agreements — create legal entities that can hold title to certain property. Trusts can avoid probate and provide tax advantages, and can also address specific concerns, such as legacy planning, retirement accounts, providing for children or individuals with special needs, providing for pets, and charitable giving.
- Beneficiary designations and jointly titled property — allow you to pass certain property directly to another person without going through probate.
- Medical directives — allow you to appoint an agent for health care, and to dictate end-of-life care and other health care decisions, even if you are unable to speak for yourself because of an illness or injury.
Depending on your estate-planning goals and needs, your attorney may advise you to utilize several of the above documents or additional estate-planning documents as part of your estate plan.
Estate-Planning Checklist for First Meeting with an Estate-Planning Attorney
Your estate-planning lawyer helps you identify your goals and needs regarding an estate plan. After discussing your preferences, your attorney works with you to gather information necessary to draft the documents you need to protect yourself, your property, and your heirs. However, it can be helpful to consider some key questions before meeting with your attorney. The answers to these questions often form the basis of your estate plan:
- What are your goals for an estate plan? Some common estate-planning goals include choosing your trustee and other agents, distributing your assets upon your death, avoiding probate, preparing for incapacity, avoiding estate taxes, and providing a legacy for family members.
- Do you want to include charitable giving in your estate plan?
- Is there a family member who has special needs?
- Who do you want to make financial and health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated?
- Who do you want to care for your minor children if you pass away or become incapacitated?
- Are there certain assets that you want to leave to specific individuals?
- Who do you want to receive your property after your death?
- Who do you want to handle your estate?
- Do you want to provide for the care and upkeep of your pets after your death?
The above list is not an exhaustive list of issues to address in an estate plan. However, working with an experienced estate-planning lawyer can help ensure that your estate plan covers all issues that are important to you.
Contact a California Estate-Planning Attorney to Discuss Your Estate Plan
You have someone to help you. Our California estate0planning attorneys provide step-by-step guidance throughout the estate-planning process to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible. Make sure that your loved ones have what they need after your death by working with your attorney to develop an estate plan that is right for you and your family. Talk with our California estate-planning attorneys today.