Most people understand that estate planning is a matter of practical necessity. Without an estate plan, Californians risk leaving their possessions to the mercy of a probate court—a court which is bound by strict legal code and rarely considers the decedent’s intent.
Despite these risks, far too few Americans ever lay the foundation of an effective estate plan. Even many retirement-age adults are often loathe to write a will, let alone draft instructions for their own funeral.
For younger adults in their late 20s and early 30s, even thinking about estate planning might seem illogical. However, aspiring professionals, newlyweds, and young families sometimes have the most compelling reasons to begin protecting themselves from life’s many uncertainties.
The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. has spent decades helping Californians of all different backgrounds plan their estates. If you need help establishing a legacy or ensuring your well-being against incapacity, our experienced team of Los Angeles and Orange County estate planning attorneys can help you take your first steps toward peace of mind.
The Importance of an Early Start in Estate Planning
However, any significant life event underscores the need for an estate plan. This is because, contrary to popular misconception, an estate plan can serve purposes well beyond the giving of gifts and inheritances. An estate plan could help you:
Keep Your Estate Out of Probate
Young parents and professionals may feel that they have time on their side. With California boasting one of the longest average life expectancies in the country, estate planning sometimes seems like an endeavor best kept for old age. However, without an estate plan, your life’s work could be endangered by the unexpected.
In California, almost every estate that is not protected by a trust is subject to some form of probate, the formal process of estate administration. If the deceased person did not have a will, their estate is dissolved in accordance with the Golden State’s intestacy statutes. These statutes govern inheritance, and they adhere to a strict legal code—one that privileges certain close relations at the expense of others, making it more difficult for heirs to challenge court-ordered decisions and ensure that estate assets are distributed fairly. While an estate plan might feel most relevant later in life, writing a will and taking other basic precautionary measures is paramount for anyone seeking to retain control over their legacy.
Protect Your Family’s Financial Future
People sometimes think the term “trust fund” is synonymous with old money and unimaginable wealth. However, trust funds have practical purposes for practical people of all different means and backgrounds.
A revocable living trust could, for instance, provide a conditioned inheritance for a spouse, a minor child, or other dependent. Semi-regular disbursements can ensure that, in the event of an unexpected accident or untimely death, your family will not be deprived the resources needed to sustain themselves in your absence.
Plan Against Incapacity
Accidents happen every day, and most don’t result in catastrophic consequences. However, those that do can leave victims unable to make decisions about their health, wealth, and care.
Every estate plan should include, at minimum, the following directives and powers:
- An advance health directive. An advance health care directive is a document that details what care the testator should, or should not, receive in the event that they are ever incapacitated.
- The health care power of attorney. The health care power of attorney permits a trusted third-party, the attorney-in-fact, to make care-related decisions if you are ever injured in a serious accident and cannot make decisions for yourself.
- The durable power of attorney. The durable power of attorney lets your attorney-in-fact engage in certain financial transactions, such as paying your rent or managing an investment portfolio.
Avoid a Worst-Case Scenario
Most people believe that a will’s main purpose is to name heirs and distribute inheritances. However, a last will and testament serves many other purposes as well.
For young families, a will can be a parent’s first line of defense against the unthinkable. In writing a will, parents are empowered to nominate a guardian for their minor child. In doing so, families can ensure that the authority to make custody-related decisions starts and ends with them, rather than a California court.