The Best Reasons to Consult an Estate Planning Attorney
By Barbara Craig, Attorney at Law
Anyone who owns real estate and/or has more than $150,000 in assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, cash, jewelry, or vehicles needs an estate plan. If that description fits you, here are the top 5 reasons to consult with an estate planner:
1. Avoid probate
Probate is a court administered process that is used to determine the settlement of a person’s estate using a valid Last Will and Testament or following state intestacy law. Probate in California is a public process that is expensive and can take a long time to complete. Having your estate plan in place before your death can eliminate the need for probate entirely. The best probate avoidance device for families who have significant assets or property is a revocable living trust.
2. Avoid family chaos
A properly prepared estate plan can prevent disruption or corruption of your family’s finances upon your death. A well thought out plan that is in writing, signed by you, and properly notarized will prevent delays in distributing your assets to your beneficiaries. If you choose to disinherit a family member, your estate planning documents must be very clear because that person can contest the validity of your plan and end up receiving an inheritance against your wishes.
3. Protect children’s inheritance
You have worked hard your entire life and want to make sure that you can pass down your legacy to your children or other descendants. Without proper estate planning documents in place to ensure that your assets are distributed the way you want, your intended recipients may not get the gifts you want, or there may be significant expenses involved with transferring those gifts and your legacy will be reduced as a result.
4. Minimize estate taxes
When a person dies owning assets valued at more than $5.34 million dollars, estate taxes must be paid to the federal government. Proper estate planning will utilize various trusts or gift-giving measures to lower or eliminate the need to pay estate taxes upon your death.
5. Protection of assets
Securing all of your assets with estate planning documents can help protect them from judgments if you are ever sued. Protecting your assets with estate planning can also ensure that as you age, unscrupulous people will have a more difficult time gaining access to, or taking your valuable property away from you.