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Important steps in estate planning in California

Most people do not look forward to planning an estate. Many are reluctant to stop their busy lives to create an estate plan because of the time, energy and the perceived costs required to do estate planning in California. However, estate planning may not be so daunting of a task and can broken up into several specific tasks to accomplish.

One of the first steps a person should make when putting an estate plan in place is to purchase life insurance. This is important to make sure one's family is taken care of in the case of one's unexpected death. Benefits received from life insurance can help a family stay in the family home. It can also ensure that one's children will be able to afford to attend college.

One important estate planning document is a will. The will provides instructions as to how assets are to be distributed among intended heirs. If a person dies without a will, estate administration will be regulated by state laws, which may not provide assets to the heirs that one would have chosen.

A person may also want to consider a living trust as a part of an estate plan. This legal instrument puts a person's assets in the trust account which can allow the heirs to obtain assets without an expensive and time-consuming probate process. There are various other benefits to a living trust, and it can be customized to fit one's specific situation and estate planning goals.

On the other hand, a person will need to ensure one's estate planning documents are legally enforceable in California. These issues are best handled by an experienced probate and estate administration attorney. Even after creating an estate plan, it should be reviewed periodically, at least every few years. Individual circumstances, estate planning goals and/or applicable laws could change, necessitating adjustments in the estate planning documents and instruments.

Source:, "Financial Focus: Step-by-step approach can ease estate-planning process", Joseph B. Ortiz, June 7, 2015

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