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Wrapping the future ? the necessity for a California estate plan

The holiday season gives Los Angeles families the opportunity to get together. That can be something that can be hard to coordinate any other time of the year. There are only a few occasions outside of holidays that draw families to one place. Among the most common are births, marriages and deaths.

Careful preparations are often made in advance of these events. The exception is frequently death, not due to its often-sudden nature but because many people don't want to think about it. Ignoring death has no effect on its course, but dismissing the necessity of an estate plan can have a tremendous backlash for heirs.

Many individuals agree that wills are important, but many more just haven't gotten around to executing one. Just 41 percent of baby boomers have wills. That's disconcerting since the youngest of the bunch, born in 1964, will turn 50 next year. More than 70 percent of people below age 34 have no wills.

Wills are wishes made legal. Until you formalize asset distribution plans, wishes are all they are. Dying without a will evaporates those desires. A probate judge and California estate laws will determine who gets your wealth. Since wills also establish guardianship for minors, not having one also allows a court to decide who gets your children.

The lack of a will also places your estate assets on hold indefinitely. Heirs may wait until probate works out the depth and worth of an estate and the bills and taxes owed. What's left goes to heirs the court chooses. Some assets can circumvent the probate process. Assets placed in trusts and accounts with beneficiaries, like pension plans and insurance, can be distributed quickly and directly.

As you enjoy the company of family members during the holidays, think about what you'd like to share with them in the future. With the creation of an estate plan, you smooth the way for inheritances for the people you love.

Source: thetimes-tribune.com, "Do You Need Estate Planning?" Herman Krug, Nov. 17, 2013

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