If you are over the age of 18 and of “sound” mind you can and should consider an estate plan.
A well drafted and thoughtful estate plan makes sure that your property is distributed as you wish upon your death, establishes who you would prefer to be named the guardian(s) of your children and defines your end-of-life wishes. Without a written plan in place, the laws of the State of California will become your default wishes – wishes that may not reflect what you would want to occur if you were given the choice. The attorneys at Toews Law Group, Inc., in San Luis Obispo are estate planning experts who are equipped to tailor fit a plan around your individual needs, regardless of your age or the size of the estate.
Although our younger selves want to believe that we are invincible and will live forever, the fact is that tragedy can strike at any moment changing the lives of those around us in the blink of an eye. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-44 is an unintentional injury. Keeping that in mind, most people would agree that they would not want their death to place unnecessary burdens on their loved ones – burdens that can be minimized or avoided with the right plan in place.
Although some assets can be transferred to your beneficiaries with a simple will, a will alone may not avoid the filing an action in probate court. And although a will alone may not avoid probate, that does not mean that every person needs a trust. Your specific situation should be reviewed to determine whether other planning tools, such as beneficiary designations, use of joint tenancy titles or co-ownership agreement, coupled with a will, may be the best option for you at this stage of your life. However, an estate plan, no matter how basic or complex, should be established to make sure that your wishes for protecting and distributing your assets are followed. As your life progresses, the need for more advanced planning should be considered and your estate plan should be structured to have the flexibility to grow and change with your needs.
The San Luis Obispo estate planning attorneys at Toews Law Group, Inc. are here to help you develop a plan that will address:
- Choosing guardians for minor children – An estate plan can include specific language about who you would want to become the legal guardian(s) of your minor children. If both parents of a minor child become incapacitated or die, the court will appoint a guardian it feels is the best option. If you do not have a properly executed nomination of who you would want to be your child’s guardian, the Court may appoint a person who you would not have approved of – having this properly documented is critical if you have a strong desire about who should or should not be the guardian of your minor children.
- Naming beneficiaries on a life insurance policy, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)) – Have you named a beneficiary? Contingent beneficiaries? What happens if one of those beneficiaries dies before you? What happens if the beneficiary is a minor?
- Care or placement of your pets – You can structure your plan to establish who will take your pets and whether you want that person or place to receive compensation for their care.
- Who should hold title to your home – What happens to my home if I die? Does my spouse automatically become the owner? Do my children become the owner? What if I am single – who gets my house?
- The continuation of your business – If you own a business, you should consider what agreements should be in place to protect, transfer or sell the business if you die or are incapacitated in an accident or by illness. Advanced Health Care Directives are used to help answer questions such as:
- Who will make medical decisions for you, including whether to continue life support, if you cannot communicate your desires?
- To what extent do you want your life prolonged by artificial means – especially if your quality of life is nonexistent?
- Do you have specific wishes regarding the disposition of your remains? Burial? Cremation? Ashes scattered at sea?
- Do you want to be an organ donor?
These may seem like gruesome and depressing matters when your entire life is before you – but, these tools are designed to give you peace of mind that the complications and what-ifs that can arise when you are incapacitated or after an unexpected death have been thoroughly explored and designed to give your loved ones comfort in knowing that they are abiding by your wishes and intentions.
People can behave in unusual ways under the influence of grief. The desire to hang on to memories by prolonging life against your wishes, one relative claiming a possession you intended for another, or even one family member suing the rest of the family can rip a family apart. An estate plan sets out your wishes clearly and legally.
It is important to know the options and the San Luis Obispo estate planning attorneys at Toews Law Group, Inc. can advise you on the best strategy to protect your legacy. Contact the office today for a consultation.