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An Overview of Estate Planning in California

Why You Need to Work With Skilled California Estate Planning Lawyers

With offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Evans Law Firm is a premier provider of estate planning services throughout the state of California. Our California estate planning lawyers understand the complex state and federal laws that govern estate planning and how those laws affect you and your assets. We know you have worked hard to accumulate your property, money, and other assets. We also know that you want to ensure that the people and things you love will continue to be cared for even after you are gone. The best way to accomplish this is to seek the counsel of one of our experienced attorneys. 

Estate planning is a broad term that is used to describe the process of taking steps to direct what will happen to your wealth and assets upon your death. It is the act of deciding who will receive part of your estate, what exactly they will receive, and how much they will receive. Estate planning takes into consideration the California probate code and governing tax laws in order to minimize the amount of taxes your estate will pay. It also avoids putting your assets through probate (when possible). A comprehensive plan will also include arrangements for what will happen to you and your assets should you become incapacitated and unable to make your wishes known. At Evans Law Firm, our San Francisco estate planning lawyers have the experience necessary to craft an estate plan that honors your wishes in an effective and efficient manner. It is the best way to ensure that your wishes will be obeyed after your death.

Being Prepared During a Time of Uncertainty

While estate planning is always a good idea, recent world events have brought renewed attention to being prepared when catastrophe strikes. Declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic in March of 2019, COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, brought the country to a virtual standstill. While most victims experience only mild symptoms of cough, fever, and shortness of breath, per the Centers for Disease Control, the United States has had over 77,000 die from the novel virus. That number is expected to rise significantly. It is also important to note that as the coronavirus is new, we do not yet know what long term effects it may have upon our health and longevity. It is possible we have not yet seen all the ill effects it may cause. It is also possible that there could be a resurgence of the virus at a later date. At any rate, should you contract COVID-19 it will bring you peace of mind to know that you have a plan in place should you become too ill to care for your businesses and family. You will also have the knowledge that should you be unable to make decisions regarding your own healthcare your estate plan will make your wishes known.  

There are various legal instruments used by our San Francisco estate planning lawyers when creating an estate plan. A Last Will and Testament is perhaps the most commonly known document used in an estate plan. It is a basic document that communicates your final wishes in regards to your assets and dependents. There are also legal arrangements that take effect before your death such as trusts and powers of attorney that may be advisable for you.  A Durable Power of Attorney, for example, gives another person the authority to act in your place for medical care and matters of financial decisions before your death. It is a power of attorney that remains in effect in case you become incapacitated.

An Advanced Health Care Directive is similar to a Durable Power of Attorney in that it allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Nominations of Conservator allow you to decide who should care for your assets in case of incapacity. In California, this requires a court order. Finally, a Revocable Living Trust may be useful should you become incapacitated. You are able to modify this  trust at any point prior to becoming incapacitated. Assets in a Living Trust are not part of your Probate estate and can pass to your heirs without the necessity of a Court probate proceeding. Every estate planning situation is different and you and one of our California estate planning lawyers will work together and determine which instruments apply in your particular circumstances.

Plans to Care For The Needs Of Your Loved Ones

When you have someone who depends on you for their care, even if they are not a minor, you need to be proactive in ensuring that their needs continue to be met even if you are not here to do so in person. Comprehensive estate planning is the best way to ensure that their needs continue to be met even after you are gone. This is especially true when you have a child or family member with special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, blindness or deafness. Persons with special needs sometimes qualify for public benefits which may be jeopardized should they inherit a sizable amount of assets.

There are special trusts that can be formed that take into consideration public benefits eligibility, real estate, finances, and other assets. Other basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care can also be addressed. It is imperative that your attorney understands these types of trusts and how they can best serve you in your situation. At Evans Law Firm, our San Francisco estate planning lawyers are mindful of the issues involving special needs and are able to guide you through the process.

Ensuring that your minor children are cared for upon your death is a common reason people seek estate planning. If you have minor children you will benefit from the services of our California estate planning lawyers. There are different issues which need to be addressed, such as, with whom will your children reside? Who will be in charge of the assets they will inherit? By appointing a guardian to care for your children in your will you can determine who will physically care for them and make sure their day to day needs are met. By creating a trust you can appoint a trustee that will be in charge of distributing assets to the minor child. You will also be able to set the parameters of the distribution.

Even if your children have reached the age of majority, you may not feel they are ready to have full control over their inheritance. Perhaps you have adult children that you don’t trust with full access to the assets they will inherit. Maybe they have an addiction which leads them to make poor choices, or they are very easily influenced by others. Perhaps you want to protect them in case their marriage fails. An effective estate plan can prevent their spouse from receiving half of their inheritance in case of divorce. Whatever the reason, a properly executed estate plan can protect your beneficiary while restricting their access to the estate.

If your family is a blended family, you may desire to leave your own children a different inheritance than your step-children. The proper way to address this is through a thorough estate plan.

Protect Your Assets with an Estate Plan

The larger your estate, the more likely you will be the defendant in a lawsuit at some point. It is advantageous to be proactive and have safeguards put in place to protect your assets in case of litigation. To protect your assets means to prevent your assets from being taken from you in the event someone pursues legal action against you and is successful. Our California estate planning lawyers can aid you in repositioning your property so that it is protected should you be unsuccessful in litigation.

Protect Your Person & Property if You Become Incapacitated

Although most people seem to understand the need for estate planning in case of their death, many fail to realize it is just as important to plan for situations in which you are alive but unable to make decisions. A thorough estate plan addresses more than what happens when you die. It also addresses what happens if you become incapacitated due to illness or accident. An Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to appoint a person to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become mentally incapcitated. It also details the amount and types of medical care you wish to receive. This is important to many people as they have strong feelings regarding how they wish to be treated in case of incapacity. Not only is an Advanced Health Care Directive beneficial to you, it is also a gift to those you love as it can guide and direct them on how to proceed with certainty with your healthcare wishes. They are not left guessing if they are proceeding as you would like. 

As mentioned above, preparing for incapacity has been brought to the forefront in recent months. The coronavirus managed to take us all by surprise and bring our country to a standstill. Many people infected by the virus were too ill to conduct their lives as normal or to make their healthcare wishes known. In such a situation it is beneficial to have an Advanced Health Care Directive. 

Save Time, Money, & Privacy with a San Francisco Estate Planning Attorney

You have probably heard of an estate “going through” probate. This is the process by which the probate court validates a will (when there is one), places a value on the decedent’s property, pays any final bill and expenses, and distributes the remaining property to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. It is governed by the California probate code. Most people wish to avoid probate as the process can be time consuming and the beneficiaries cannot acquire the property being inherited until the probate process is concluded. Records kept by the probate court are public, which can be a problem if you desire to keep the process private. There will also be attorney’s fees and court costs involved in a case that goes through probate.

Leaving Assets to a Charity

Charitable gifts can assist in alleviating some of the tax burden placed on your estate while supporting a cause you believe in. There are several types of trusts that can be created to provide assistance to a charity. If you have philanthropic endeavors you choose to support, our California estate planning lawyers can help you decide how best to provide that support to the charity of your choice.  

Avoid Family Fall-Out. Let Our California Estate Planning Lawyers Help.

Unfortunately, in many cases, when someone dies, the surviving family members fight over the estate. One sibling may feel they deserve more than another. The most financially irresponsible heir may want to be in charge of the financial assets. There can be legal squabbles that tie the estate up in court for years and deplete its assets. Having an estate plan in place can prevent these fights and legal battles from happening. Your desire for how you want your assets to be distributed will be clear and legally binding.

Contact the Evans Law Firm today to discuss your estate planning options with one of our California estate planning lawyers today.

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