California Estate Planning: The Basic Documents Involved

California estate planning documents

California estate planning can involve different documents. While there are many documents that are chosen based on specific circumstances, there are some basic documents that are likely to be involved. In this post, you’re going to learn about those documents. This is important because it is your estate. We want to make sure that you can hold a simple conversation with an estate planning attorney.

Last Will and Testament

One of the main documents involved in every California estate planning is the Last Will and Testament. This is a legal document that explains how you want your assets distributed when you die. If you die without a will, there are certain California laws that will be used to determine what will happen to your possessions, your money, and even your minor children.

A Last Will and Testament must be considered legal under California law. If it doesn’t meet all of the legal requirements, the probate court will declare the will invalid and follow state laws instead. It’s very important that your will is properly drafted, witnessed, and executed. It is very important to help your family in advance by talking with a California estate planning lawyer about your will.

The Most Common Trust Used in California Estate Planning

Before we tell you about the most common trust used in California estate planning, we’d like to say that not everyone needs a trust. Those who do need a trust need to choose the proper trust that will best meet their needs. That may or may not be the most common one: a living trust. While you’re alive, you would generally be the trustee of the trust. Property is placed inside of the trust. Using a trust agreement, you explain how that property should be distributed when you die, who should then act as trustee, and what will happen if you are no longer able to make your own decisions because of a mental or physical impairment. A living trust is beneficial because changes can be made to it without going to court. It’s like a private probate. You can, at any point during your life, change the trust or revoke it.

General Durable Power of Attorney

There are several power of attorney documents to choose from. The most common one used in California estate planning is a general durable power of attorney. This gives someone else the ability to make decisions about your property and finances. The reason why it is considered durable is because it will remain in effect if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. This is important because power of attorneys that are not durable will automatically end if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

As you prepare to draft this document, think long and hard about who you would trust to make your financial decisions as well as decisions about your property. Remember, they will be able to make decisions on your behalf even if you’re incapacitated. Choose carefully. Keep in mind that this document primarily property and finances. You should talk with an attorney before you decide to use it to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. There’s a better document for this. It’s also one of the most common documents used in estate planning.

Advance Healthcare Directive

An advanced healthcare directive is a document used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. It’s important that you put some thought into who you’ll choose because this person will make decisions for you regarding receiving or withdrawing healthcare, nursing care, and end of life decisions.

You can use an advance healthcare directive to give specific instructions related to:

  • What to do if you have an incurable and / or irreversible condition that will cause your death within a short amount of time
  • You’re unconscious and medical professionals do not believe that you’ll regain consciousness
  • What to do if the risks and burdens of treating you outweigh any benefits you’d experience.

California Estate Planning Is a Personalized Process

Now that you understand the basic documents used in the California estate planning process, you’re ready to have an educated conversation to start what is a personalized process!

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