his is probably one of the bigger questions out there, “Why should I care?”. And while we could write entire textbooks around this subject, let’s boil it down to the three main reasons most people need at least a basic estate plan set up today. Be sure to check out our other articles on Probate, Trusts and Wills to learn even more detail.
Reason #1) You are the parent of a minor child.
What happens if an unforeseen and unfortunate event occurs, and tomorrow we cannot be here for our children? Who will take them in, care for them, and raise them in a way we would approve of? As the parents of three little girls, we don’t like thinking of this anymore than the next person, but it’s important that we take the time today so that we can set up an estate plan that includes a will. The will is where we nominate a guardian for minor children who will take care of them in the event we are no longer around. Doing this gives you the peace of mind that if something happens to you, the person of your choosing will be nominated to take in your children and raise them.
Reason #2) You want to make sure that you’re cared for and that decisions are made according to your wishes when you can’t speak for yourself.
This goes towards having powers of attorney as part of your estate plan set up now. Doing this helps prevent your loved ones from having to go through an expensive and burdensome court process later down the road to get a conservatorship over you. Perhaps the more important thing is you’re giving your loved ones guidance on what you want to happen in the event you can’t speak for yourself. This relieves your loved ones of the burden of second guessing whether their decisions are what you would have truly wanted.
Reason #3) You want your loved ones to avoid the Probate process.
There are two big reasons to avoid the Probate process. First, it is extraordinarily expensive compared to any estate plan you could have established while living. Probate fees are a percentage of your total estate and the fees are set by California Probate Code 10810, so most attorneys stick very close to this fee structure. This generally means Probate will be tens-of-thousands of dollars more expensive for your heirs to go through than any estate plan you set up while alive would have cost. See our article on Probate for more details about how quickly these fees add up.
The second big reason you want to avoid Probate is you lose control over how your estate is distributed. A Probate Judge will decide who gets what based on then existing California law. That decision will be whether or not that’s what you would have wanted and whether or not receiving the funds at that time is in the best interest of the beneficiary. For more discussion on this topic, please see our article on Probate for some common examples of Probate pitfalls for heirs.
If you’d like to learn more about why you need an estate plan as it applies to your unique situation, contact our office today to schedule your free strategy session.