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Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Far too many people believe only the very wealthy need an estate plan. Actually, nothing could be farther from reality. No matter how big or how small your estate is, it is extremely important to have an estate plan which allows you to prepare for the future while protecting your property and your loved ones. If you were to become incapacitated, or died unexpectedly, do you know what would happen to your property? Would those you would choose to inherit your assets actually do so? These are questions you need to have answered now, rather than later, when it is simply too late. Having an experienced estate planning attorney from the Gullotta Law Group will ensure your estate plan fits you—your needs, your wishes, and the particulars of your estate. There are many reasons you could benefit from having an estate plan including:

  1. You can help your loved ones avoid probate. Probate can be a lengthy process, not to mention an expensive one. If you die without a will, or with only a will, then under California law, your estate will go through probate. Further, probate is not a private matter. In fact, any interested person can find all the details regarding your estate including who your heirs are, what assets you are leaving and any stipulations you put on those assets.
  2. You can reduce the federal estate taxes associated with your estate. Although there is a fairy high threshold as far as federal exemptions associated with estate taxes, you want to minimize the level of taxes your estate will owe.
  3. You can avoid the mess that can ensue when there is no estate plan. Would you really want your family members arguing and creating rifts that could take years to heal just because you failed to have an estate plan in place? If you have clear instructions regarding who will get what, then there will be no family fights or costly probate court proceedings.
  4. You can protect your beneficiaries. Estate plans can protect beneficiaries who are minors at the time of your death and can also protect adult beneficiaries from outside influences, problems with creditors, bad decisions or even divorcing spouses. By taking the time to name a guardian and trustee for minor beneficiaries you can save a significant level of costly legal expenses as well as family discord. If your beneficiary is an adult but has a spouse or partner you fear will take advantage of the inheritance, you can create an estate plan which will guard against such things.
  5. You can protect your assets. Many people mistakenly believe that if they are sued, they can protect their assets, however by the time you even suspect a lawsuit is in the works, it is much too late to protect your assets. It is much better to start with a comprehensive estate plan which will protect your assets prior to your death as well as protecting the assets for your beneficiaries after your death.
  6. You can plan for your own needs. Although most of us think of an estate plan as something which does not go into effect until we die, a comprehensive California estate plan can protect you and your assets while you are alive. You can include in your estate plan a document which details what will happen in the event you become incapacitated, or unable to make your own decisions. You can also think about any insurance you might need when you are older and perhaps unable to provide for your owns needs, and detail this in your estate plan. You can designate a healthcare proxy or power of attorney in your estate plan to ensure your medical and financial decisions are made in the way you would want them to be made. Finally, by discussing your intentions with those you trust, you can stop worrying about what would happen if you were unable to speak for yourself.
  7. You can engage in “legacy planning.” Perhaps you want to be remembered in a certain way after your death. You might choose to accomplish this by establishing philanthropic intentions, then developing a solid plan which will implement your intentions in the future. You might choose to set up a charitable trust, create a family foundation, or continue to support causes which are important to you. You can make these intentions clear in your estate plan, then rest easy knowing those intentions will be properly carried out.
  8. You can prepare your future generations for their inheritance. A comprehensive estate plan—along with discussing that plan with future generations, can help those individuals become effective stewards of family wealth while encouraging the opportunity for involvement. You can talk to your children and grandchildren on your own, or work with your estate planning attorney to have open, honest discussions regarding your assets.
  9. You can address how you want your digital assets to be handled. Many people fail to think about their digital assets; personal photos, messages, e-mails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts…the list goes on and on.  You can appoint a person in your estate plan who will be charged with taking care of your digital assets whether that means closing out all your accounts and deleting all text messages and emails, or having your digital photos distributed to your heirs. Your estate planning attorney can help you tailor a digital asset plan which authorizes a person you trust to handle these often-sensitive assets.

Getting Estate Planning Help from the Gullotta Law Group

Estate planning can be an emotional process, and one that many people put off until it is too late. The earlier you begin planning your estate, the more prepared you and your family will be to face potentially challenging situations. It is always good to seek advice from your California estate planning attorney prior to making any decisions, and estate planning isn’t always accomplished through a DIY form. Do not procrastinate any longer—contact a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer from the Gullotta Law Group.

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