Creating an estate plan doesn't need to be complicated. When considering what needs to be in your estate plan, you'll want to make sure you have important documents that explicitly state your wishes. Having an experienced lawyer can make this process much easier.
If you are ready to make an estate plan, contact Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC to see how our attorney can help with your legal needs.
The Must-Haves for an Estate Plan
There are four key must-haves for any estate plan.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is a document that holds title to your assets and is managed by you or, after your passing, an appointed trustee. Once established, you would retitle or assign any assets such as bank accounts, real estate, investments, and more into the trust.
You can make any changes to your trust at any time while you're living. Any income earned in the trust goes to you but is also subject to personal income taxes. No assets will be transferred until your passing.
An advantage of having a living trust is that your assets belong to the trust, and your loved ones would not have to go through the probate process after you are gone. Additionally, in a revocable living trust, you can set out specific spending rules for a guardian if you have minor children.
Having a pour-over will allows for any property that was inadvertently not titled in the trust to pass as provided in the trust. It does so by naming the trust as its sole beneficiary, and it “pours” into the trust and non-trust property to avoid Probate.
Since most of your assets should be included in your trust, having a pour-over will serve as a backup for any assets that may otherwise not already be owned by your trust.
A tip to make sure assets are accounted for is to sit down once a year and check the title to your property. If you acquired a new asset that needs to go into your trust, do so as soon as possible.
While the Trust and Will operate after death, the following two documents are needed while you are alive but possibly incapacitated, and in your most vulnerable state:
Power of Attorney for Property Management
Having a power of attorney for property management designates someone you've chosen to manage your property and make financial decisions that are not covered in your revocable living trust. Examples of this include:
- social security benefits;
- retirement plans;
- dealing with the IRS;
- managing your business;
- dealing with the DMV; and,
- dealing with banks, insurance companies, retirement companies, etc.
When naming a power of attorney for property management, you can determine how soon you would like your designated person to take control, whether effective immediately or if you become incapacitated. Your power of attorney agent is only able to make decisions on your behalf while you are alive – the document dies with you. That's why it's important to have a revocable living trust established naming a trustee, who takes over when you die.
Advance Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive is a document naming a person on your behalf who can make decisions about your medical care, including life and death decisions. This document is used if you are unable to express your own wishes (for example, if you are incapacitated or unconscious). More recently, this document also allows your named person to speak with medical professionals remotely and sign documents electronically as many hospitals have COVID-19 restrictions in place.
It's important to note that the person selected will also be given access to your medical records, which are otherwise not available because of HIPPA (Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). When completing your advance health care directive, a HIPPA release form is also included and complies with California's Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA).
Having your estate plan set up as soon as possible gives peace of mind to you and your loved ones. When you're ready to create your estate plan make sure you have an established attorney who knows what needs to be included in all documents so Probate can be avoided and your family will be fully protected from creditors and the courts.
Contact Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC to discuss all your estate planning needs. 424-383-8445