In St. Helena, California, "estate planning" refers to the process by which a person makes arrangements related to their property after their death. It can (and should) also encompass personal issues that might come up immediately before and after a person's death.
One of the first things an estate planner will ask you about when you come to them for help is what you want to put in your will. A will is a document which says who is going to get your property after your death. Once it is proven valid, a will is binding, meaning that the beneficiaries get legal ownership of whatever is left to them. Obviously, if you have any interest in what is done with your property after you die, a will is going to be at the center of your estate plan. However, it is rarely the only part of a solid estate plan.
A will is rarely the only aspect of a comprehensive estate plan. Most persons have quite strong preferences about their end-of-life care, especially when, and under what circumstances, they would want to be taken off life support, if that every happens. These wishes should be made in writing, and discussed with family. Additionally, preferences on organ donation and funeral arrangements should also be made clear.
Most vitally, an estate plan should give instructions on the care of your minor children. It should lay out who is to take custody of them, and, if possible, leave them a large sum of money to assist with this care. Of course, you should discuss this matter with the people who you want to take custody of your children, to make sure they can truly take on such responsibility.
What Type of Estate Plan Do I Need in St. Helena, California?
The answer to this question depends largely on your goals and priorities, as well as your age, health, and the amount of assets you have.
For instance, if you're unmarried, and in your early 20's, estate planning is probably not the most critical thing in your life. However, if you're seriously ill, and/or unusually wealthy, estate planning might be a priority for you.
If you're not married in St. Helena, California, but have a life partner, estate planning is imperative. If you want your partner to be treated as your spouse, your estate plan should make arrangements to give him or her power of attorney in the event that you become incapacitated. Additionally, your will should clearly name your partner as a beneficiary, if you want them to inherit any of your assets.
If you are elderly, and have a considerable amount of assets in St. Helena, California, estate planning may be more critical at this stage of your life than any other. While estate planning deals with some morbid and unpleasant subjects (requiring us to confront the reality of our own mortality), it is necessary if you wish to live your life secure in the knowledge that your loved ones will be provided for to the extent that your assets allow.
Do I Need a St. Helena, California Estate Planning Attorney?
Because estate planning in St. Helena, California is not always simple, the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney will almost certainly be useful, and worth the cost. This is doubly true because of how crucial the issues involved can be, and the fact that a relatively minor mistake can sometimes derail an entire estate plan.