In California, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your opinion on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in California may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in California
Estate plans in California almost always have these features:
Will: A will allows you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can generally give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement that gives another person the power to make certain decisions, usually related to finances and medical care, on your behalf, if you become incapacitated or disabled, and therefore unable to make or express your own decisions. You can choose who you give this power to. For obvious reasons, it should be somebody you trust.
Funeral Arrangements: Obviously, deciding what you want done with your mortal remains is a very personal decision. However, once you have made this decision, you should put it in writing, in some place other than your will. You should also make your wishes known to your family members. This is because wills are typically not read until days or weeks after the testator dies, by which point it may be too late to complete their wishes on this matter.
Do I Need a California Estate Planning Attorney?
Given the importance of decisions related to estate planning in California, you will probably find that having an experienced attorney to assist you will be well worth the cost, and might pay for itself in future savings.
Interesting Facts About California
California is located on the Pacific Coast of the United States. With a population of over 37 million people, it is by far the most populous state in the U.S. California's state capitol is located in the city of Sacramento. The California State Capitol building located there serves as home to the state legislature and the Office of the Governor.
The history of California is driven by a series of "booms" centered in major cities, such as the San Francisco gold rush, the Central Valley agricultural booms, the filming industry boom in Hollywood, and the technology boom in Silicon Valley. These industries, as well as California's location on the coast, have led to an influx of people from all over the U.S. and around the world.
California is known for its ornate historical courthouses like the Alameda and Fresno courthouses. Over time most California courthouses have been renovated or rebuilt in a more modern fashion. Currently, California courthouses feature new technologies in the courtrooms. Some of the more active California Superior Courts include the courthouses in Alameda, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Fresno.
California's legislature is always very "busy", and the state is known for its complex set of laws. Lawyers in California are required to pass one of the most rigorous bar exams in the country. This ensures that California lawyers understand the vast network of laws and regulations that are unique to the state. California lawyers offer legal services in a broad range of fields and topics.