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Estate Planning: What You Need to Know and Why

Planning for a time when you won't be around to take care of your loved ones can be emotional but essential. Failing to create a will or a living trust can make settling your affairs more complicated for your survivors. Unfortunately, only 46% of adults have a will in place.

Some people might not think their estate is big enough to justify hiring an estate planning lawyer in San Diego. You must document how you want your assets distributed after you pass away. Estate planning is the only way to ensure that your wishes are honored.

This guide will discuss everything you need to know about estate planning services. We'll also talk about why you need to partner with an experienced estate planning attorney in San Diego.

What's Estate Planning?

Estate planning refers to the process of outlining who you want to receive your assets if you're incapacitated or have passed away. There are a few things that should be included in estate planning:

  • A durable power of attorney
  • Will or trust
  • List of beneficiaries
  • A healthcare power of attorney
  • Letter of intent
  • Guardianship designations (if applicable)

An estate plan should also include the purchase of various insurance plans. These plans can include:

  • Life insurance for your beneficiaries when you pass away
  • Long-term care insurance
  • A lifetime annuity so you receive some income before you pass

Individuals at all income levels can benefit from asset planning. You should start estate planning at a young age regardless of marital status.

What's Included in Estate Planning?

There are multiple components of a thorough estate plan. Let's discuss some of the top things you should consider during the process.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney (POA) is a designated individual who will make decisions on your behalf when you're no longer able to. If you don't have one, the court system might have to make decisions about what happens to your assets and who they go to after you pass or are deemed mentally incompetent.

Your chosen agent can have the power to make various legal decisions, including:

  • Make financial transactions
  • Conduct real estate transactions
  • Create additional legal documents

You can change who your POA is at any time, so long as you're considered mentally competent and physically able. Many people choose their spouse, child, friend, or another family member to be their agent.

Will and Trust

A trust attorney in San Diego can discuss whether a will, trust, or both is best for you. A will should be one of the main features of your estate plan, no matter how many assets you have. This document ensures that your property and assets are given out according to your wishes.

Some of the assets you can include in your will are:

  • Real estate
  • Money
  • Businesses
  • Investments
  • Sentimental items

An attorney can assist when writing a will or a trust. A revocable living trust outlines what to do with your estate if you're still alive. The trust will go into effect if you're incapacitated or ill.

You might be wondering, "how much does a living trust cost in California?" The price depends on your attorney. Having a trust in place helps avoid your estate from having to go through the probate process, preventing your successors from having to hire a probate attorney in San Diego.

List of Beneficiaries

Many of your possessions not listed in your will can pass to your beneficiaries. This includes items like 401(k) assets and life insurance policies. These assets can go to the designated person without having to go through the probate process.

That's why you must put a beneficiary and contingent beneficiary on those types of accounts. Many policies allow you to select a beneficiary when you're filling out the introductory paperwork.

If you don't choose a beneficiary or a contingent one, the courts have to decide who receives the assets. The judge doesn't know you personally. They won't know what decision to make that honors your intent and beliefs.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney designated another person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This type of POA goes into effect if you're deemed incapacitated.

Consider the following qualities when choosing a healthcare POA:

  • Similar viewpoints
  • Trustworthy and honest
  • Who will choose a course of action you support

You'll want to consider choosing a backup POA if your first choice can't act at that time or is unavailable.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is the document that's left to your beneficiaries or executor. It outlines what you want to be done with various assets.

Other things that are included in a letter of intent include:

  • Burial and funeral arrangements
  • Financial information, like bank accounts
  • Digital information, such as login information to online accounts
  • Pet care

A letter of intent isn't enough to ensure your estate is handled the way you wish after you pass away — you need a will too. However, it can help a probate judge know what your intentions are when distributing your assets.

Guardianship Designations

If you plan on having kids or have minor kids already, you need to select a guardian. This step is sometimes overlooked during the estate planning process.

The couple or individual you choose needs to possess the following qualities:

  • Want to raise children
  • Be financially sound
  • Share your views

Like with POAs, you should pick a backup guardian as well. Without selecting a guardian for your children, the court might decide to have your children live with someone you might not have chosen yourself. In very extreme cases, a judge might choose to have your children be wards of the state.

Partner With an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer in San Diego

Hiring an estate planning lawyer in San Diego ensures that you're prepared for the future. Feel confident moving forward knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of. Prevent your friends and family from having to go through lengthy court battles by taking care of your estate before you pass away.

Zentz & Zentz Attorneys at Law are here to help guide you through the process. We offer estate planning services in San Diego

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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