Do I Need An Attorney For Estate Planning?
Before you actually start to prepare your California estate planning documents, you need to learn about the different documents involved in good estate planning and how each document fits in with your overall estate goals. Keep in mind that creating your estate planning documents has long-term consequences for your family. More importantly, there is no “standard” living trust and, therefore, it is not required that trusts be written in “legalese” (language that is peculiar to the legal profession).
Remember, although no legalese is mandated, it is wise to use forms which are sufficiently traditional and, if necessary, comply with current statutes. As cautioned by the California Attorney General’s office, “there are books and guides available that teach you how to do this yourself, but you should be very careful and make sure that these publications have been customized to comply with California law.”
For example, don’t fall into the trap of a being “a dollar wise and a penny foolish” by preparing California estate planning documents without any professional help. After all, you can inexpensively create your estate planning documentation, in most cases, with the help of a registered Legal Document Assistant, that utilizes the latest and most up-to-date self-help software. Doing so, however, requires that you educate yourself about your options so that you can make wise, well-informed decisions.
California Estate Planning
What is Estate Planning?
California estate planning is the process of considering the following:
- How to avoid probate.
- How your assets will be managed for your benefit if you are unable to do so.
- When certain assets will be transferred to others, either during your lifetime, at your death, or sometime after your death.
- Who will receive your assets.
- What arrangements are needed to meet your goals if something happens to you or those you care about.
Estate planning has many purposes. First, estate planning can lower potential estate taxes and fees. Secondly, estate planning can set up contingency plans about your health care treatment and management of finances if you become incapacitated. Lastly, estate planning can identify how you want your property distributed when you die, as well as provide for the care of your minor or disabled children. You should have an estate plan if:
- You are the parent of a minor or disabled child.
- You have property that you care about.
- You care about your health care treatment.
Estate Planning Considerations
A comprehensive estate plan is important to carry out your estate planning goals. While considering your estate plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my assets, and what is their approximate value?
- Who do I want to receive those assets and when?
- What person do I want to be responsible for the care of my minor children if I become incapacitated or die?
- Who do I want to manage those assets if I cannot, either during my lifetime or after my death?
- If I cannot take care of myself, who do I want to make decisions on my behalf about my care and welfare?
Basic estate planning goals may be accomplished with an estate plan consisting of:
If you own real property or your assets exceed $166,250 in gross value, your estate plan may also include a Revocable Living Trust. You may want to check our list of common terms used in wills and trusts in estate planning documents or watch our video on California Estate Planning.
There are many people who call themselves “Trust Specialists” or “Certified Planners” or other titles intended to “suggest” that the person has received advanced training in estate planning. California is experiencing an explosion of promotions by unqualified people and entities which have only one real goal –- to gain access to your finances to sell you insurance-based products such as annuities and other commission-based product. Avoid California estate planning services that try to sell you other financial services. Here are some helpful hints and suggestions:
- Before considering establishing a living trust or any other estate or financial planning document or service, consult with a lawyer or other financial advisor who is knowledgeable in estate planning. Most importantly, this discussion should be with a person who is not trying to sell you a financial product which may be unnecessary.
- Always ask for time to consider your options before you make a decision. More importantly, do not allow yourself to be pressured into purchasing any estate or financial planning product.
- Be wary of home solicitors who insist on you giving them confidential and detailed information about your assets and finances.
- Report high-pressure tactics, misrepresentations or fraud to the police immediately.
- Know your cancellation rights. California law requires that sellers who come to your home to sell goods and services (not including insurance and annuities) that cost more than $25 must give you two copies of a notice of cancellation form to cancel your agreement. You, the buyer, may cancel this transaction at any time before midnight of the third business day after the date of the transaction.