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Making a California estate plan that works for you and heirs

What excuses do people in Los Angeles use to avoid making an estate plan? The same excuses people across the U.S. employ. If your internal argument includes "I'm too young to think about death" or "I'm not wealthy enough to make a will," then it's likely you may die intestate.

While dying without a will has no effect on a decedent, it can wreak havoc on heirs, beneficiaries and courts left to sort out a legal mess. The absence of estate planning documents gives the state permission to divvy up property according to succession laws that may not align with your true wishes.

Wills are relatively inexpensive ways to prevent legal chaos and family infighting over an estate or minor child guardianship. Powers of attorney direct health and finances in the event of a person's incapacity. Trusts provide control over asset distribution and management before and after death.

Beneficiary designation is one of the most crucial components of an estate plan. Many parents feel children should share assets equally, but not all beneficiaries use inheritances wisely. For example, an inherited family business can be destroyed within a generation by siblings with opposing financial priorities.

Many people forget about the importance of beneficiary designations. The recipient of 401(k) proceeds will be the person named as beneficiary in the plan even when someone else is listed as beneficiary in a will. To avoid conflicts, estate planning attorneys recommend creating and updating beneficiaries in both places at the same time.

An estate plan created at age 30 cannot predict future events. Estate plans must keep up with life shifts like asset acquisitions or losses, the addition of children and marriage or divorce.

Lawyers suggest creating an initial estate plan that reflects personal and financial circumstances for a two- to three-year period. The limitation forces an individual to revisit the plan regularly to make sure estate desires remain current.

Source: foxbusiness.com, "Why You Need an Estate Plan" Donna Fuscaldo, Jun. 21, 2013

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