There are different approaches that can be taken when you are planning your estate, and this is why you should work with an attorney to create a custom-crafted plan. This being stated, there are some standard components that make up the basic framework.
In an effort to provide you with a starting point, we will share an outline of a basic estate plan in this post.
The facilitation of postmortem asset transfers is at the core of the estate planning process. Everyone has heard of the simple will, and this is an option, but there are limitations and drawbacks that you should be aware of before you make any final decisions.
A person that creates a will is called the testator. When a will is being created, the testator will name an executor to act as the estate administrator. After the death of the testator, the executor admits the will to probate.
This is a legal process that takes place under the supervision of a court. It will take about nine months at a minimum in most cases, and the inheritors have to wait it out. No bequests are distributed until the estate has been probated by the court.
The time lag is one negative, and probate expenses reduce the value of the estate. Since it is a public proceeding, prying eyes can access the records to dig into the details, so there is a loss of privacy.
In addition to these negatives, if you use a will, the people that are named as beneficiaries will receive lump sum inheritances with no asset protection or spending safeguards.
Revocable Living Trust
You could use a revocable living trust as an alternative to a will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. If you go in this direction, you will act as the trustee while you are living, so you would have complete access to and control of the assets that you convey into the trust.
The “revocable” designation is quite literal. As the grantor of the trust, you would have the ability to revoke it at any time, so there are no risks at all.
When you are creating the trust declaration, you name a successor trustee to administer the trust after you are gone. This can be a professional trustee such as a trust company, or you could name a family member or someone else that you know to act as the trustee.
After your death, the trustee would distribute assets to the beneficiaries, and the probate court would not be involved at all. You would not have to instruct the trustee to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries all at once. The terms of the distributions would be entirely up to you.
This is one option that is available, and there are other trusts that can be used to satisfy specific objectives.
If you have dependent children, you should name a guardian for the children in a simple will, even if you have a living trust.
You should certainly have enough life insurance, and your trust can be the beneficiary of the insurance. The trustee would be able to administer the trust on behalf of the minor beneficiary until they reach the age of majority.
Your plan should also address end-of-life eventualities. A living will is an advance directive for health care that is used to record your preferences regarding the use of life-support. The document can contain your organ and tissue donation choices as well.
You can use a durable power of attorney for healthcare to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not related to life-support. A HIPAA release should be added to give the healthcare representative the legal right to obtain your medical records.
If you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee to step into the administration role if it becomes necessary. A durable power of attorney for property can be utilized to name an agent to manage property that is not held by a trust.
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Our doors are open if you are ready to work with a Los Angeles, California estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place. You can send us a message to set up a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 310-677-9787.