Is Estate Planning on Your To-Do List?

A Santa Cruz Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Assets

You have spent your whole life providing for your family and loved ones. Caring for them should not end once you are gone. While no one likes to think about their death, planning for the inevitable can give you some control and peace of mind. With an estate plan, you can decide how your family is provided for and who inherits your assets, with minimal taxes and burdens.  An experienced Santa Cruz estate planning attorney can help you protect your loved ones from painful and lengthy probate proceedings.

What Is an Estate Plan? 

Most people mistakenly believe that estate planning is just for the wealthy. However, everyone needs a plan for the future. If you own any property or assets, then an estate plan is the best way to keep the courts from ultimately deciding who receives certain assets after your death. A Santa Cruz estate planning lawyer can help ensure that your property passes to your chosen beneficiaries quickly and efficiently and that your children are properly cared for.

Without an estate plan, your assets and your loved ones will need to undergo the probate process. During the probate process, the court establishes the value and distribution of your estate.  The court will ultimately determine who will receive your assets and whether those assets will be distributed outright. While California law governs the distribution of your assets in the absence of an estate plan, the law may not accurately reflect your desires.

What Is Included in an Estate Plan?

There are numerous documents that should be included in your estate plan, depending on your family situation, assets and goals. Some of those documents include:

  • Trust. A trust is a document that clearly states how you wish to divide up your property and assets upon death. You must appoint a trustee to carry out your wishes after your death. Trusts avoid probate and are handled privately, making them an ideal choice for many people. 
  • Last Will and Testament. Similar to a trust, a will and testament will also determine who inherits your assets and your estate upon your death. Unlike a trust, however, a will has to undergo the probate process and becomes public record. 
  • Pour-Over Will. If you have a trust, then you also need a pour-over will. This document distributes your tangible personal property to your trust. In turn, your trust states how all of your assets will be distributed on death.
  • Nomination of Guardian. This appoints a person or persons who will have physical custody of your minor children and who will manage your children’s assets. Without such designation, the courts will make those important decisions for you. 
  • Durable Power of Attorney. You can appoint one or more people to handle your affairs when you are unable to do so due to injury or illness. For example, you might designate a spouse to be your healthcare power of attorney and your sister to be the financial power of attorney.
  • Advance Health Care Directive. This document designates an agent to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. It gives that agent information about your end-of-life decisions.

Estate planning offers you the peace of mind knowing your loved ones will not have to undergo an expensive protracted probate proceeding after your death. It will clearly state how your property will be distributed and your children cared for, minimizing the possibility of painful legal battles. Our Santa Cruz estate planning attorneys will help you remain in the driver’s seat and ensure that your property and assets are divided up according to your wishes.

Contact Our Santa Cruz Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about estate planning, it is important to speak to an experienced and skilled Santa Cruz estate planning attorney today. We use estate planning techniques to help eliminate or minimize taxes at death. In addition, each estate plan we create is crafted to address your unique circumstances. Contact the Law Office of Emily J. Buchbinder at (831) 201-6557 or fill out our confidential contact form