• paper with words estate planning with calculator and pen nearby

Planning Your Estate

If you own property, have assets, or have any other significant personal or financial interests, it is important to create a plan for your estate upon your death. Understanding some estate planning basics will make it easier to approach this important task. A thoughtful approach is crucial for anybody with such assets – old or young, male or female, regardless of one’s health or socioeconomic status. An person who writes a will is known as its testator.

Estate planning falls under the legal category of “probate law.” In California, the California Probate Code outlines the regulations for estate planning and other probate issues for state residents.

Various issues can arise in the estate planning process. When you begin the estate planning process, you may consider talking to a probate attorney about your needs and your desires for your assets after your death. For some people, planning their long-term medical care is an important part of the estate planning process. For others, making sure that all beneficiaries receive a fair share of one’s estate is the top priority.

Estate Planning Basics – Identify Important Issues

Making plans for one’s estate is not always a simple, straightforward process. The following topics are basics for estate planning and point out some common issues of consideration during the estate planning process.

  • Gifts;
  • Creating wills and trusts for beneficiaries;
  • Beneficiary designations;
  • Durable medical power of attorney;
  • Durable financial power of attorney;
  • Powers of appointment; and
  • Issues related to survivorship and property ownership such as joint tenancy, tenants-in-common, and tenancy by entirety.

Estate Planning Laws in California

In California, an individual must be at least 18 years old and have the mental capacity to plan his or her estate.

Handwritten wills can be legally binding if all other legal criteria, including signatures from the testator and at least two adult witnesses, are met. If one of the witnesses is also a beneficiary of the will, it must be signed by three witnesses. This is known as a holographic will.

It is very important to include your wishes for the people who will have power of attorney on your behalf in your will. Power of attorney means that if you become incapacitated, the people you have appointed as agent will make significant decisions about your health, your finances, and your property on your behalf. These can include the decision of whether or not to continue artificial life support. This is known as a living will because it is carried out while the testator is still alive and living.

Help With Estate Planning Documents

Learning about estate planning basics is the first step in arranging your estate for final distribution according to your wishes. The next step is preparing the needed documentation. If you are making plans for your estate and want to avoid the high cost of attorney’s fees, contact A People’s Choice for low-cost legal document assistance. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you in preparing all the required legal documents consistent with your estate plan, without having to hire a lawyer.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


If you need more information about estate planning, please do not hesitate to call our office. A People’s Choice has been providing self-help legal document services for over 30 years and has established an excellent reputation in the community.  When you are ready to start your paperwork, information can be provided to us through our convenient online system, over the phone, or in person.

A People’s Choice provides estate planning document preparation services nationwide.

By |2018-01-18T15:47:49-07:00January 19th, 2015|Estate Planning|2 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. Regena Potter December 12, 2017 at 3:22 am

    My husband, Gabe Potter purchased our home & paid it off before we were married. In his family trust the property is to go 50% to his daughter & 50% to me. We have been married 25 years & lived together 11 years prior. He recently did a TOD naming the property to go to his daughter. My question is does the TOD take over the family trust & take away my 50% or am I protected by the family trust should he die before I do?
    Thank you kindly,
    Regena Potter

    • Sandy McCarthy December 12, 2017 at 3:24 am

      You would need to check and see how the actual title to the property is held. The property may not even be titled in your trust. Just because it was mentioned in the trust doesn’t mean it is titled in the trust. I would suggest you pull the title as soon as possible and check it out.

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