Your Best Investment Is Your Family’s Future
The word “estate” may put you in mind of English manor houses on rolling greens. You may not think of yourself as having an “estate,” much less needing to do any planning for it. But even if you don’t own a home, you have things of value. All these things together make up your estate. Estate planning is what you do to make sure those valuables are treated the way you want them to be treated when you’re not there to make decisions about them—you need to have a plan and a great lawyer.
Estate planning is important, no matter what size your estate or location. We proudly serve Petaluma, as well as the surrounding areas of Novato, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa. Without an estate plan, your wealth will most likely fall under probate law, and will go before a probate court in a drawn-out, expensive and very public procedure, with a judge making the ultimate decisions about where your wealth goes. With no estate plan, any family disputes will be played out publicly, possibly damaging family harmony for generations.
When you have an estate plan, you can rest assured that your hard-earned wealth will go to your family or chosen heirs. The government won’t be able to take what you’ve spent a lifetime building. During your life, estate planning can also help you protect your assets against your possible future mental or physical incapacity and the catastrophic costs of long-term medical and nursing care. Finally, estate planning can protect you from financial fraud and abuse, should you lose your ability to make your own decisions.
What are the parts of an estate plan?
What are the parts of an estate plan? There are two main elements of every estate plan: living trusts and wills. Most people have one or the other, and often they have both. For more on the difference between trusts and wills, see Living Trusts and Wills. Your trust is called a “living trust” because you participate in it while you are living.
However, there’s more to estate planning than trusts and wills. As long as you are competent to do so, you manage your trust as you see fit. But what happens if you have a medical emergency or lose your capacity to make your own decisions? Who makes your decisions for you? Estate planning includes directives to the people you choose to make those decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. These documents include durable powers of attorney and medical directives.
Estate planning is also a must for families with underage children, disabled adult children and non-traditional families. These situations may require multiple trusts addressing different children’s needs.