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Basics of an Estate Plan

Basics of an Estate Plan

estate planning

Estate plans outline how you want your affairs managed after you pass away. Because every individual has a unique life, no two estate plans will be exactly the same but each plan should include some basic elements to address how your assets will be distributed to beneficiaries.  

Estate plans also include documents to address end-of-life care and documents to address who has the authority to act on your behalf should you be incapacitated temporary due to an accident, injury, or illness.

A Trust or Will or both.

Though wills may be the best known estate planning device, in California today, they are only used in place of a trust, when the estate is small enough to avoid probate administration by means of the various small estate procedures available.  A pour over will is a type of will that is created when a revocable trust (living trust) is created, so any assets not transferred to the trust before death will automatically be transferred to the trust upon death.

Trusts are now the more popular and efficient way to distribute assets to beneficiaries upon your death. A trust is the best way to make sure there is a trouble free transfer of assets  and avoid the arduous probate process.

Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD)

An Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD) includes individual health care instruction and a Medical power of attorney.

Things to include in an AHCD:

• Name of Primary Physician

Naming a specific doctor in your AHCD can help ensure your specific medical choices will be honored and understood. Naming a personal physician will prevent other medical professionals from having to make assumptions about your treatment options.

Your physician has your medical history and can help guide treatment decisions. 

• Medical power of attorney

The medical power of attorney allows you to designate and empower a trusted individual with the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf regarding your  healthcare treatment, when you are incapacitated.

For example, if you have a Do Not Resuscitate Order in place for certain situations given your medical history, your designee can make sure your wishes regarding resuscitation are conveyed. Likewise, you can also empower the individual to authorize certain recommended medical treatments to sustain life.

• Living Will

Going a step further, a living will allows you to state what life sustaining measures you wish to allow and wish to refuse, should your illness become prolonged or untreatable. A California AHCD includes a section detailing an individual’s living will wishes. 

You can specify the types of treatment you are willing to receive in the event of a dire situation, such as comas, where a patient may require the use of breathing tubes, feeding tubes, and other treatments to sustain life. You can also specify if you wish to donate organs within your living will too.

Additionally, the living will allows you to “communicate” your treatment in accordance with your religious beliefs.  This lets medical professionals to not administer medicine or treatments that would violate your spiritual beliefs.

Durable Power of Attorney

The California Durable Power of Attorney is a tool that is written up to allow you, while you are healthy, to designate someone you trust to act as your agent and manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so because of an illness or injury. 

Your agent can make sure that while you are incapacitated, that your  financial affairs are properly handled including paying bills, paying mortgage, filing taxes, buy and trade stock, and manage properties by buying/selling/collecting rent. Your agent will operate to keep your financials in order as you would do if you were able. 

Let Us Help

This is not a comprehensive list of what can be included in an estate plan. For example, you may need to select a personal representative.

Sit down with Andrew Fesler and discuss your situation and develop an estate plan that is tailored to your situation. We strongly recommend you create a plan sooner rather than later. Contact the Law Office of Andrew Fesler today.