What you need to know about estate planning in California

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Most adults in California have the theoretical right to create their own estate plans. Frequently, people make the mistake of procrastinating when they need an estate plan. They don’t know much about the process and put it off until something happens that leaves them or their loved ones in an unfortunate situation.

Those who understand the process may have an easier time protecting themselves and their loved ones. What do adults typically need to understand about estate planning in California?

The law has rules if people don’t plan

Someone who dies without an estate plan in California loses control of their legacy. California has clear rules about intestate succession. The state generally distributes personal property among someone’s closest family members, likely including spouses, children or parents, if they die without any documents in place.

Wills aren’t the only option

A will is the simplest way of arranging for property to pass to specific beneficiaries, but is far from the only solution. California testators can also arrange to have certain assets transfer when they die or preemptively move property into a trust. There are numerous different types of trusts that can help people ensure their financial stability later in life and also maintain control over their legacy after their passing.

Death isn’t the only concern to address

Frequently, people have an overly-simplistic approach to estate planning. Their main concern might be what happens to their children or their personal property when they die. However, comprehensive estate plans can also include multiple legal documents that take effect after some kind of emergency.

Advance medical directives and powers of attorney can help ensure that someone receives adequate support during a time when they cannot act on their own behalf. Someone in a coma or otherwise incapacitated by a medical emergency can have other people act on their behalf if they have powers of attorney and other key advance directives on record.

The process probably requires ongoing revisions

Many people think of estate planning as a one-time responsibility. They assume that once they have legal documents in place, they have protection for the rest of their lives. That is not necessarily true. Changes to personal circumstances might invalidate estate planning documents or render them less effective.

A variety of different challenging circumstances, including divorce, the death of a family member or the addition of a new baby to the household, could all make revisions to an estate plan necessary. Typically, testators need to occasionally review their estate planning paperwork every few years and may need to make a point of updating their documents after a major change.

Individuals who understand the basics of estate planning in California may have an easier time putting together paperwork that helps protect them and the people they love regardless of what may occur in the future.