| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning
california estate planning documents

We spend the bulk of our lives working hard to earn money and accumulate items that make us happy. Estate planning is an important way to ensure that your wishes for those assets are honored if you die or are incapacitated. It is also a way to take care of your loved ones that survive you. There are a few important California estate planning documents to help you do this. Pakpour Banks LLP has the estate planning experience necessary to walk you through the process.

Who Needs an Estate Plan?

Everyone with assets, property, family, and concern for their health should invest time in making an estate plan. Having an estate plan can also help you manage your assets while you are still enjoying them. 

The main legal estate documents for your estate plan include a:

  • Will,
  • Trust,
  • Durable power of attorney,
  • Advance health care directive, and
  • HIPAA authorization.

It is key to complete these documents before you need them. Completing them ahead of time will ensure that YOU are in control of your financial, medical, real estate, and custodial decisions.

What Is a Will?

One of the foundational California estate planning documents is a will. The will is where you list all your assets. You also state who the assets should go to and when. A will isn’t only for material assets. It can also name guardians you wish to appoint to care for any minor children that may survive you. You also appoint an executor or personal representative. The executor will be responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate.

A will must go through the probate process to determine its validity. Once the will is deemed valid, the assets are distributed as you have directed. 

What Happens If I Don’t Have a Will?

There is no requirement that you have a will. But without a will, you die “intestate.” This means that the State of California decides how to distribute your assets based on a set of laws and guidelines. The process can be lengthy and expensive and is not likely to be in line with your wishes.

What Are the Requirements for Creating a Valid Will?

There are several requirements to create a legally enforceable will. The requirements include:

  • The will must be typed or written. 
  • The will must be signed and dated by the testator (person making the will). 
  • The testator must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind—the testator must be able to understand what they are doing.
  • The will must be created without “undue influence,” meaning no one had any power or control over the testator writing the will.
  • The will must be signed by two competent witnesses who are not named as beneficiaries in the will and are present at the same time as the testator. Witnesses must also sign an affidavit that the testator is of sound mind.
  • The will must name the beneficiaries and which assets they are to receive.

Each intention must be clearly stated in your will. If the language in the will is vague or ambiguous, it risks being challenged in court.

What Do You Need to Prepare for Creating Your Will?

Having information about your assets and accounts on hand will make the process of creating your will faster and easier. Think through everything you own that might have value, such as bank accounts, houses, heirlooms, cars, and collector’s items. 

Next, think about what individuals and organizations you want each of your assets to go to. A will is your opportunity to pass on your legacy to the people and organizations you care about.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where one person (the grantor) selects a trustee and one or more beneficiaries. The trustee holds and is responsible for managing the trust property and assets on behalf of the beneficiaries. Trusts can be used to distribute assets after the grantor has died or to manage property during someone’s lifetime. Trusts may also help limit tax exposure, avoid probate, protect assets from creditors, and detail requirements for inheritances.

There are several types of trusts in California. Deciding which one will be most useful for you depends on what you want to achieve. Work with an experienced Trust attorney at Pakpour Banks LLP to determine if you should use a revocable or irrevocable trust, a living or a testamentary trust, or a charitable trust. 

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to designate an individual to make financial or business-related decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to. You should be thoughtful about whom you select to manage your financial matters. Choose someone you trust. This person is going to be in charge of the money and assets you worked so hard for. 

Advance Health Care Directive

Who do you want to make decisions about your health if you are no longer able to do it yourself? An advance health care directive is a legal document that states who will make decisions about your health when you can’t anymore. This allows you to find someone you trust and instruct them on your healthcare preferences. 

Do you want life-saving treatment? What kinds of pain relief do you prefer? Do you want to donate organs? Who do you want your physician to be? The directive can set out your wishes for these types of questions. 

When selecting your medical decision-maker, think of a family member or friend who:

  • You trust,
  • Is at least 18 years old,
  • Can be there for you, and
  • Can advocate on your behalf and implement your healthcare preferences.

Since we can’t predict when our health may take a turn, it’s important to have this legal estate document in place as soon as possible. 

HIPAA Authorization

HIPAA is the law that protects your personal medical and health information from disclosure to third parties without your consent. A HIPAA authorization form allows healthcare providers to share your personal health information without violating privacy rules. Having this HIPAA authorization is an important part of your estate plan. The form will allow your medical providers to share information with those you have designated to make decisions on your behalf.

We Can Help Build Your Ideal Estate Plan

At Pakpour Banks LLP, we pride ourselves on listening closely to our clients’ wishes. As a small firm with highly experienced California estate planning attorneys, we can give each case the personalized attention it deserves. Our goal is to ensure that every item, account, healthcare decision, and family member is taken care of in a well-thought-out estate plan. We will help you prepare the main California estate planning documents and enact your estate plan in line with your wishes. 

Contact us today to learn more about our estate planning process.

Author Photo

Brian enters the family law profession with a refreshing approach to these proceedings: heal families; don’t destroy them. In some cases, this means the family is going to look different than it did before. In other cases, this means a new family is created where there was none before. Either way, individuals should leave family court knowing their voices were heard, and with healthy attitudes about themselves and those they love.

Read More Legal Blogs By Brian Pakpour

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