California Estate Planning Blog
Category: Estate Planning

An Estate Planning Checklist: The 5 Essentials for Your Estate Plan

Estate planning has become an important part of responsible financial planning and a crucial step to managing your wealth.  But what exactly does estate planning entail?  What documents are necessary and what’s the best way to get them? 

Below a quick education about the 5 Estate Planning Essentials and the wisest path to getting them done.

What estate planning documents do I need?

The only completely accurate answer to this question lies with an estate planning attorney, who can tailor your estate plan to your financial situation, family values and distribution goals.  However, a comprehensive estate plan will typically include these 5 essentials:

1. A Revocable Living Trust

If you own a home or have financial assets (bank accounts, investment accounts, business interests) valued at over $150,000, you need to place these assets in a revocable living trust.  A revocable living trust is a legal entity that holds your most valuable property during your life and leaves detailed instructions for its managed distribution after your death.  If your estate is in a revocable living trust, your family can avoid the delay, expense and publicity of the probate court process.

2. A Pour-Over Will

A pour-over will accompanies a revocable living trust.  It is a safeguard that allows any property accidentally left out of the trust to be poured into the trust and distributed according to your wishes.

3. An Advanced Healthcare Directive 

An Advanced Healthcare Directive gives a chosen individual (your agent) the power to act on your behalf for medical decisions if you are incapacitated.  Ideally, you will nominate one agent and two back-up agents for this role.  If no agent is named, the Court will be forced to who is best to represent you and that person may not know about or be willing to follow your wishes. 

4. Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is similar to an Advanced Healthcare Directive, except that in this case, the nominated agent can act on your behalf to make financial decisions.  Again, it is best to have a first choice and two back-up choices for your financial agent, because if no one is properly named, your family would have to petition the Court to gain access to your accounts, even to pay for medical bills.

5. Kids Protection Plan

The Kids Protection Plan® contains a set of instructions, legal documents and even an ID card for your wallet, that together with your LifeLadder Estate Plan, provide the best available guarantee that your children will be cared for according to your wishes.  The cornerstone of this plan is the Permanent and Temporary Guardian Nominations, which ensure that the Court will not have to decide who is best to raise your children in your absence.

How do I get started?

You will first need to choose how you would like to plan your estate.  While online forms may have tempting price points, they are not sufficient to handle the complexities of family relationships or to protect a lifetime of wealth-building.  They also do not provide a comprehensive protection structure for your minor children, as the Kids’ Protection Plan was designed to do.

LifeLadder Estate Planning offers a wonderful hybrid, by allowing you to complete your entire estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney over Zoom videoconference.   This unique practice model gives you the comfort and convenience our busy schedules require and the personalization that only a one-on-one, client-attorney relationship can provide.

Watch our 10-minute Webinar to learn more and gain access to our online scheduler.

Legal Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact LifeLadder Estate Planning for a consultation on your particular legal matter. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of California.

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