Estate planning is not just having a will or a trust, or only about “who gets what.” A good estate plan is comprehensive, made specifically for you and your family, and includes:
- Avoiding probate
- Protecting your assets
- Reducing or eliminating taxes
- Taking care of minor children
- Providing for you if you become incapacitated
- Peace of mind for your loved ones
- Preserving your legacy
At Acorn Law, our Westlake Village estate planning attorneys will help guide you in making the decisions you need to make and creating a plan that is unique and customized specifically for you.
What happens if I die without a will or trust?
Everyone has a plan, and in your case, if you do not create your plan yourself you get the “one-size-fits-all” plan that the State of California has created for you. Your assets will go through the court process called probate, and will be distributed to your heirs according to law. The court will appoint someone, usually a relative, to be in charge of the process.
What is probate, and what is so bad about it?
I keep hearing about probate, and that it should be avoided.
Probate is the court process that your loved ones must go through if you die without a plan in place, or if you only have a simple will. The process takes between 6 to 12 months, and is overseen by a judge. In the mean time, your assets are held in limbo, until the court approves their final disposition. Probate is also a matter of public record, and anyone who is interested can find out what you owned and who got it. Lastly, probate is expensive. In California, attorney and personal representative fees are set by law, and are based on the gross value of the estate. For example, the combined statutory fees for a $1 million dollar gross estate are $46,000 – nearly 5% of the total value of the estate!
I don’t have much in the way of assets. Do I still need an estate plan?
Yes! An estate plan is not just for wealthy people. Everyone should have a plan properly drafted alongside a Westlake Village estate planning attorney. A good estate plan governs not just what happens to your assets when you die, but also provides for who will manage your affairs if you are incapacitated, who will be guardians to your minor children, protect what you do have for your family, and most importantly, lets your loved ones know exactly what you wanted and tells them what to do when you are no longer able to.
I have a Will. Isn’t that good enough?
In most cases, the answer is no. A will only really does two things: it says who should get what, and, if you have minor children, appoints guardians for them. It does not avoid probate, and it does nothing if you become incapacitated. This is why in most cases our Westlake Village estate planning attorneys recommend a living trust, along with other documents like a durable financial power of attorney and advanced healthcare directive in the event you are incapacitated.
So, I need a trust, and a durable financial power of attorney, and an advanced healthcare directive, and…?
This is a case of where “the sum is greater than the parts.” An estate plan is not just a will, or a trust, or any other single document, but a well thought out, coordinated plan that has been put in place by you, for your loved ones, to carry out your wishes and give them and you peace of mind. A good analogy is that of a plane: it has wings, and engines, and a cockpit, and a tail, but none of these things by themselves does anything. It is only when combined through careful planning and design that the plane can fly.
I have more questions. How can I learn more?
You can schedule a complimentary consultation today and meet with a Westlake Village estate planning attorney who can answer your specific questions. You can also attend one of our workshops to learn more.