How to Start Estate Planning for Your Assets and Loved Ones
The past year has perhaps made you start thinking about planning for the future and making an estate plan. Estate planning is the process of inventorying your possessions and designating who will receive them and take over your responsibilities in the event of your death or incapacitation. Estate planning requires official, legal documentation that is prepared and notarized in order to verify its authenticity. Many choose to have a Los Angeles estate litigation lawyer serve as a notary.
Notaries typically must be present to witness the signing of the document so that there’s no doubt that they are legitimate. However, since the coronavirus pandemic started, some states have permitted online authorization in which a lawyer for family issues can remotely authorize the estate plan.
It’s important to note that estate plans are not limited to a will. They are useful to have in place in the event that an estate holder becomes incapacitated, whether it’s by a disease like dementia or a terrible car accident. While these thoughts may seem dark, it never hurts to have an estate plan just in case. Your estate attorney can ensure that your estate plan includes the possibility of mental incapacitation in addition to death.
If you think making a will and estate plan is dramatic, you will probably find it surprising that half of Americans die without making a will. The Law Offices of Nigel Burns are trust and estate lawyers Los Angeles locals use for the mitigation of their assets. One of our lawyers for trust litigation in Los Angeles can help you consider all aspects of your finances and property. Some basic aspects of your estate plan are listed below.
Size Up Your Estate
Start thinking of your life and your possessions, tangible and intangible. Some assets you don’t want to overlook are:
- Houses, land, or other real estate
- Collectibles like trading cars or action figures
- Stocks and bonds
- Life insurance policies
- Checking and savings accounts
- Retirement funds
- Ownership of a business
You may have a lot more assets than you originally thought once you start to write all of them down.
Make a Will
Once you have a list of your assets, you can start making a will. Wills don’t have to be complicated; it all depends on how many assets and beneficiaries you have.
Remember to write the names and addresses of all beneficiaries so your probate attorneys in Los Angeles can contact them later. You should also include how they are related to you. Even though they may not be receiving anything from the will, it’s also helpful to include the names of any family members that will be left out of the will.
It’s okay to leave everything to one person, but if you decide to do that, make an alternate plan. Decide on alternate beneficiaries in the event that the primary beneficiary dies before you or at the same time as you.
Account For Any Dependents
When estate planning, it’s important to think of those who depend on you directly. If you have children under the age of 18, make sure to assign a guardian for them. In the event that you and the other parent are unable to care for the child, then the courts will entrust their care to their legal guardian.
Establish a Power of Attorney
In the event you become mentally incompetent and therefore unable to make decisions on your own behalf, you will want a trusted power of attorney in place. This is something you should handle while you are still mentally strong, and your mental state will be examined when you sign a durable power of attorney document.
Having a trusted loved one act on your behalf in financial matters will prove itself enormously helpful when it comes to carrying out your estate plan.
Research State and Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amounts
State and federal taxes on your estate will be left to the beneficiaries. Most estates do not incur a federal estate tax, but your state tax will vary from state to state. You should consult an estate litigation attorney so they can explain how state estate taxes, gift taxes, generation-skipping transfer taxes, and income taxes will affect your beneficiaries.
Seek Legal Guidance
Because estate planning is not one size fits all, there may be questions regarding your estate and life that won’t be answered through the internet. Seeking legal guidance from trust and estate attorneys in California can solidify your estate planning process and ensure that your beneficiaries will be cared for following your passing or mental incapacitation.
The Law Offices of Nigel Burns are family issues lawyers that understand how the individual family dynamics affect your estate planning. We can also provide legal advice for:
- Restraining orders
- Child support
- Child custody
- Property division