We all know that we cannot escape death. Knowing that someday we will pass on, separates us humans from the animal kingdom. Dying isn’t something we need to dwell on, but it is something we need to prepare for. Estate planning is something that can be done at any age, but postponing it puts undue stress on you and your family. If you die without a will, your beneficiaries may not receive the gifts you wish them to have.
To better understand what estate planning is, let’s go over some terms.
Probate Assets: Those assets held in the decedent’s name alone, that require the decedent’s signature to transfer.
Probate Administration: A court procedure with judges whom will oversee the transfer of your property.
Testate Succession: When someone dies with a will. There are rules regulating how to invalidate or contest a will.
Trusts: Artificial estates created to avoid the probate process all together because now your assets are not “alone” in your name.
Estate Tax: A tax consequence when you die leaving large sums of money.
Elder Law: A specialized area of law created to help those who may not be able to care for themselves.
WHAT IS AN ESTATE?
Your estate contains everything you own. An estate typically contains:
- All property and real estate
- Bank accounts
- Investments, stocks and bonds
- Life insurance
WHAT IS AN ESTATE PLAN?
An “estate plan” is the means by which your estate is passed to the next generation. There are a variety of ways that your estate can be handed down to your family or a beneficiary. Having a properly executed estate plan will eliminate doubts of how your estate will be distributed; thus, giving you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of the way you planned it. One way you can plan for your estate is to devise a will. Another way you can ensure that all your assets become part of your estate is through a pour over will. Probate assets are governed by wills, so with a pour over will, after your estate goes to probate, your assets are put it in trust for the trustee to disperse as to the terms of the trust.
Those are just some examples. I know you have questions regarding estate planning. Call my Calabasas law firm today to schedule an initial consultation at 818-616-8827.
MORE ABOUT ESTATE PLANNING IN CALIFORNIA
Most retirement plans and life insurance policies pass to named beneficiaries, who are chosen when you take out the policy or at a later date. Life insurance policies and retirement plans are referred to as will substitutes. A will substitute is a term for any instrument or means of transfer that has the practical effect of taking the place of a will. A will substitute passes property without the necessity for or, the possibility of probate or administration; it passes neither under the testator’s will nor under the intestacy statute.
Will substitutes generally fall into two broad categories: (1) Those which transfer-on-death provisions derive from contract, and (2) Those that, by their nature, include a right of survivorship, that is some form of joint ownership under which the interest of the person who dies first is extinguished in favor of the surviving owner. Common will substitutes are life insurances, Joint and SurvivorshipAccounts (bank or brokerage accounts) – two or more depositors may exercise some degree of control over the funds during their joint lifetimes, and upon the death of one, the survivor becomes sole owner of the funds. Payable on Death or POD accounts belong solely to the depositor until it is paid to the named beneficiary upon the depositor’s death. A Totten trust, which is similar to a POD account except that the deposit is in the form “Ralph in trust for Josephine”. A Community Property Agreement (less common) – a married couple is permitted to contract with respect to the disposition of community property upon death.
Property that is jointly owned passes to the surviving joint owner. Trust assets are distributed according to the terms of the trust. Property held in an individual’s name alone, comes under the instructions laid out in a will, or in the absence of a will, under the rules of “intestacy” set out in state law. Problems often arise when people don’t coordinate all of these methods of passing on their estate. To take just one example, a father’s will may say that everything should be equally divided among his children, but if the father creates a joint account with only one of the children “for the sake of convenience,” there could be a fight about whether that account should be put back in the pool with the rest of the property
ESTATE PLANNING FOR THE SINGLE PERSON
You don’t need a family or beneficiaries in order to plan for your estate. Typically, if you do not have a surviving spouse, you may have descendants by representation, your parents if they are still alive, descendants of your parents such as your siblings and their kids, i.e. nephews and nieces, or you may plan to give to charity. A well-orchestrated estate plan is comprised of: (1) a trust document; (2) a pour-over will; (3) a medical power of attorney; (4) a financial power of attorney; and (5) any other documents.
If you are single and wish to plan your estate, call the law offices of Louis Pacella today for valuable information regarding your assets. Call us at 818-616-8827.
ABOUT ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY LOUIS PACELLA
At our Calabasas, California law firm, our clients come first. Our team has expertise in many areas of practice such as over 10 years of experience in Estate Planning, Business Formation and Planning, and over 7 years of experience with Medi-Cal Planning and Trust Administration and Litigation. We compassionately represent you as you prepare your estate. We will gladly meet and counsel with you in your own home. Call us today.