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What Do I Need in My Estate Plan?

Making an estate plan is very important and it is not something that you should put off, as you never know when you could be sick, hurt, or pass away unexpectedly. The Evans Law Firm can provide assistance with the creation of a comprehensive plan that uses appropriate legal tools to keep your wealth and family safe and to secure your legacy.

While most people assume a last will and testament is the key component of an estate plan, a will is just one of many different tools that could give you control over what happens at the end of your life and after you pass away. Talk with a California estate planning lawyer to find out what tools should be a part of your trust and to find out about how the process of estate planning works.

Key Components of Your Estate Plan

Every estate plan is different because every person’s assets are different and because no two people have the same goals for their legacy.  The key to making your plan is to protect your assets during your life and after your death and to determine what legal tools will best allow your wealth to pass on to the next generation.

A will, although not necessarily the only legal tool you need, can be an important tool to dictate who should inherit your assets that you have not transferred through other processes. Any assets that are transferred through your will are going to transfer through the probate process and will be counted for purposes of determining if you owe estate tax and in what amount.

Another option, which gives you much more control than a last will and testament, is to create a trust. There are different kinds of trusts, including revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and testamentary trusts that are created as part of your will. You can also use specific types of trusts, such as a special needs trust, to accomplish specific goals such as providing for a disabled child without causing a loss of access to the child’s Medicaid or other means-tested benefits.

Trusts take time to create– usually several weeks to prepare the trust documents and then additional time to formally transfer ownership of assets into the trust – so it is best to plan ahead to work with an experienced attorney to find out your options for trust creation. 

When you create a trust, you can sometimes use the trust to reduce or avoid estate tax and to make it possible for the assets held within the trust to be protected from creditors. With some types of trusts, assets held within the trust will not count as part of your resources when determining if you can qualify for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home. However, not all types of trusts provide the same benefits. For example, while a revocable living trust will allow you to transfer assets outside of probate, the trust assets will still count for estate tax purposes.

Other tools that you may wish to include in your estate plan may include pay-on-death accounts and joint ownership to transfer assets outside of the probate process; a power of attorney to give someone authority to act for you in case of incapacity; and advanced health care directives to control the kinds of medical care you’ll receive and decline in an emergency.

To find out more about these different estate planning tools and to learn more about how long it takes to create a trust, contact the Evans Law Firm, Inc. today to speak with an experienced California estate planning lawyer.

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