Besides it being a somewhat uncomfortable subject to think about, many people in Calabasas may be reluctant to take on estate planning because it seems complex. For example, some readers might wonder whether a will or a trust would be a better fit for their goals. More generally, deciding what to leave to whom may seem like an impossible decision.
Fortunately, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide on the best strategy to take care of your estate after death. As far as dividing up that estate, it can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. One way to get started before seeing an attorney is to write out your wishes. A recent article in the Ventura County Star suggests going through the “four P’s”:
1. People. Take a piece of paper and write down every person in your life that you are considering including in your will or trust. This list could include a spouse, children, other relatives or close friends. It could also include your favorite charitable organizations. If you have young children, you will also have to consider assigning someone to be their guardian and/or manage their financial affairs until they become old enough to do it on their own.
2. Property. In a column next to the list of people, write down all of your major assets. This list should include things like real estate, bank accounts and retirement accounts. Along with personal property like furniture and keepsakes, these items make up your estate. You do not need to account for all personal property unless there are certain items you specifically want to leave to someone.
3. Plans. Comparing the lists, begin considering which assets should go to which person. One way to do this is to divide your estate into percentages. For example, 50 percent of your estate could go to your spouse, 40 percent to your children and 10 percent to charity.
4. Planners. Besides hiring an estate planning attorney, you could also consult with a certified financial planner professional to provide financial advice.
Source: Ventura County Star, “Guest column: Using the ‘Four Ps’ of estate planning,” Juan C. Ros, Feb. 16, 2013