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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Probate Lawyer in Sacramento Encourages You to Add Estate Planning To Your List of Resolutions This Year

December 20, 2010

While many people focus on getting out of debt or getting organized for the New Year, estate planning is an equally important personal finance goal that should make every adult’s to-do list.

That’s because resolving to get your legal affairs in order is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your family, wishes and assets are protected if something unexpectedly happens to you this year.

As a probate lawyer in Sacramento, I know that far too many area residents are without plans to protect the people and things they love the most should tragedy strike. In fact, a recent survey further reveals that only 35% of adults have a basic will or other estate planning documents in place should death or incapacity occur.

That is why I always say that at a bare minimum every adult needs a basic will (and perhaps a trust), a power of attorney and health care directives in place to avoid a legal and financial catastrophe if something unexpectedly happens.

This has nothing to do with how much you are worth either. Far too many people believe they have to be ultra-rich to justify putting such legal documentation in place. On the contrary, if you have children, own your own home or have other assets such as a life insurance policy, retirement funds, investments, etc., you NEED the estate planning documents I talked about above.

So what exactly are these documents and how do they help you in a time of emergency? Let me give you a brief crash course:

  • Will– A will is a document that specifies what should happen to your assets if you pass away. A will may also contain guardian nominations to dictate who will care for your minor children if something unexpectedly happens to you.
  • Trust– A trust is a legal entity that can hold title to property. With your assets securely placed in a trust, management of your affairs in the event of incapacity is simplified. Upon death, a trust will keep your affairs private and out of the probate court.  It also allows a great deal of control for people who do not want their inheritance going outright to their heirs if something unexpectedly happens.
  • Power of Attorney– A power of attorney or POA gives explicit permission for someone to access your personal accounts, pay your bills and handle all other financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated in an accident but do not die. Under the current privacy laws, even a spouse may have a hard time accessing personal information without such documentation in place.
  • Advanced Health Care Directive– This important document specifies your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated in an accident and unable to speak for yourself. Such wishes may range from whether you want certain medications administered to when (if at all) to start life support in critical situations. This document also allows you to appoint the person best suited to carry out such wishes should incapacity occur.

Remember, accidents and serious illnesses happen every day without warning. That’s why it’s so important for any adult who has not yet tackled their estate planning to add it to their resolutions this year. It will ultimately save your family from years of headaches and thousands of dollars in unexpected costs should the unthinkable happen.

Not sure where, or even how to get started?

Give me, your neighborhood Sacramento estate planning lawyer a call at (916) 241-9661 and ask to come in for one of my comprehensive Peace of Mind planning sessions. These sessions are normally $750, but if you mention this article, you can come in free of charge. However, these sessions are limited to 10 per month so be sure to call reserve your spot today!

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I totally see the difference between your service and your typical legal estate planning service. The experience you mentioned where you get this big document you don’t understand and a trust that never gets funded was EXACTLY our first experience. It cost a small fortune too. Really - it is the difference between providing a legal document and providing an estate planning service.

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