BEFORE DEATH PLANNING
DO YOU NEED A WILL? DO YOU NEED A LIVING TRUST?
Everyone needs to have a document that takes care of their wishes after death. In California if you only have a last will and testament, you may have to do a probate and go through Probate Court to get an order to distribute your property to your heirs. Having to file a Petition for Probate is expensive and also very time-consuming. Most people do whatever they can to avoid a probate.
If you own property valued at $150,000 or less, there are summary probate proceedings that can be done or even a simple declaration if you do not own and real estate, so having a will is fine.
If you own property valued at more than $150,000 then it is so much better for your beneficiaries to do a living trust. It saves time and money. I tell my clients that it really is a gift to your beneficiaries to do a trust. They don't have to wait to get permission from the court to gather up assets, sell real estate, or distribute the property to the people that you wanted to get your property. A lawyer may be needed to help with the trust administration but it is much less costly than statutory probate fees.
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
If you are unable to handle your financial affairs, you need to appoint someone as your power of attorney. You need to trust the person you appoint. This person can write checks for you, make deposits into and out of your accounts but only for your benefit and, in general, he/she takes care of all your financial needs. You can also appoint a professional fiduciary to handle this.
An Advance Healthcare Directive lets you decide what you want to happen if there comes a time that you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. You also appoint someone to speak to your doctors about your care and take care of your healthcare needs. It is a very important job you are giving someone and you should talk to him/her before you appoint him or her. Family members and good friends usually are willing to help or sometimes a professional fiduciary is used.
When I draft a will or trust for you, I also draft financial and healthcare powers of attorney for you.