Congratulations! Your tax return has (hopefully) been filed and you can move on to far more exhilarating activities like finally taking care of (or revisiting) your estate plan. So when starting the estate planning process what should be your top priorities? Although probate avoidance is often the most talked about goal in the process, incapacity planning and the nomination of guardians if you have minor children are just as, if not more important.
Nominate Guardians for Minor Children in Your Will
By executing a simple will, you can nominate potential guardians for your minor children. Although a judge would need to make the official appointment if anything happened to you, your nomination will carry a lot of weight in the decision making process.
In California, if you are alive but incapacitated and have not appointed an agent to act on your behalf for both health and personal care as well as financial decisions you will be subject to the court supervised conservatorship process. However, you can opt out of this system by creating an Advance Healthcare Directive for personal and healthcare decisions and a Durable Power of Attorney for financial decisions.
Advance Healthcare Directive
By creating and signing an Advance Healthcare Directive you can document your healthcare wishes and appoint an agent to carry them out in the case where you are incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney
The financial corollary to the Advance Healthcare Directive is the Durable Power of Attorney for Finance. With this document you appoint an agent to carry out enumerated financial actions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
And Yes, Probate Avoidance Also
Don’t think that I was going to forget about the mortal enemy of all estate planning professionals, the probate process (cue ominous music). While nominating guardians for minor children and planning for potential incapacity are top priorities avoiding probate is still vital to protecting your assets and ensuring an easy transition for your heirs. By setting up a living trust and transferring assets into it you can avoid the unnecessary expense and delay of California probate.
In addition to probate avoidance a living trust can provide with more complex distribution schemes than a will which can provide for mixed families and avoid giving large outright gifts to beneficiaries who may not be ready for such responsibility.
If you have any questions about how you can get the peace of mind that only comes with knowing that your family is protected, please call my office for a complimentary consultation.