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Spouses need to communicate during estate planning in California

Often, married couples designate one spouse to manage and take care of the family's expenses. This generally includes managing a family's estate planning needs in California. Once an estate plan is put in place, though, it doesn't necessarily mean that person's job is done. If the spouse that did all the planning dies unexpectedly, the surviving spouse may realize that he or she does not know the location of all of the important estate planning documents and information needed for administering an estate.

Therefore, a spouse in charge of the family's estate administration plan should make sure that all essential financial documents and personal information are organized in some type of filing system. This should include information for various financial accounts as well as contact information to help a surviving spouse or children sort through one's assets. One should make sure that his or her spouse and children or other beneficiaries know the location of these estate planning documents and personal information.

Also, it's preferable to make a list of all assets and liabilities and include it with the estate planning documentation. This should include all bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, brokerage accounts, real estate properties and various other assets. Liabilities to detail include mortgages, credit card payments, vehicle payments and any other debts. Along with the list of assets and debts, necessary information -- such as passwords -- should be included to enable one's surviving spouse or children to access important accounts and assets.

Even after one has an estate plan in place, it is still a good idea to update one's estate planning strategy periodically. This will help to address any significant changes to laws affecting estate administration in California. Also, updating one's estate plan can help in making sure that significant life changes, such as a divorce or adoption, are taken into consideration.

Source:, "Estate planning details you may be forgetting", Peter Golotko, Sept. 17, 2015

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