One never knows what is going to happen next in life. At any point, a person can become incapacitated unexpectedly. Of course, in a worst case scenario, a person can suffer a sudden death. Incapacitation and death are two reasons why it is important for California residents to not procrastinate when it comes to drafting estate planning documents.
One of the most important estate planning documents is the will. This document enables a person to direct how his or her assets should be distributed in the case of his or her death. A will enables a person to give his or her assets to his or her children or intended beneficiaries based upon their financial needs or even irrespective of their financial situations. The will can even restrict the use of inherited assets, while also protecting inheritances from creditors.
On the other hand, estate planning is not only about what happens when a person dies, but it is also about what happens when a person becomes unable to make decisions for him or herself. This is where a power-of-attorney document comes into play. This legal instrument allows another person, of one's choosing, to make financial decisions when one is unable to do so. A medical power-of-attorney document allows a person to make medical decisions on another person's behalf.
It is important to remember that it is imperative to have the correct legal language in the estate planning documents. This can prevent these documents from being challenged in a California court. In the end, ensuring that estate planning documents are in place and legally sound will prevent intended beneficiaries from having to deal with a prolonged probate process during an already emotionally stressful time.
Source: The Huffington Post, "4 Estate Planning Documents Everybody Needs", Steve Cook, April 10, 2015