If the last couple of years has taught us anything, we have learned that we need to be ready for the unexpected to happen at any time. The more prepared we can be when the unthinkable occurs, the better able we are to handle things at the moment and the easier time we have moving forward.
We often find that the feeling we get from accomplishing things that are important to us far outweighs the temporary discomfort we might feel as we go about the task.
At the Law Offices of Andrew Cohen, family means a lot to us. We want the best for our families and we want to do our best for our families. Our clients feel the same way. Our San Luis Obispo trust & estate planning attorney helps families plan for their futures and protect the people they love.
Why Do People Put off Estate Planning
According to Gallup’s latest poll, only 46% of US adults have some type of estate plan. The new figures are down from their peak at 51% in 2005. By age group, those 65+ are the most likely to have an estate plan. But only about half of adults ages 50 – 64 have done any estate planning.
Most people agree that proper planning and getting one’s affairs in order is important to them. So why do so many Americans leave this all-important legal matter unresolved? There are a number of reasons people put off dealing with estate planning:
- Don’t know where to go for help
- It’s too huge a challenge
- Discomfort thinking or talking about death
- Could bring up sensitive family matters
- There is plenty of time to get it done later
- Don’t have enough money/property to bother with
- Believe it’s too expensive/don’t like talking about money
The Estate Planning Process
For many people, the process of putting together a basic estate plan is fairly simple. There are certain legal documents you should have in place. An estate planning attorney will gather personal information from you to draft a customized Trust and other important documents so that they represent your needs and wishes. Depending on your particular circumstances, you and your attorney will determine the estate planning tools that best meet your needs.
The basic estate planning documents that most people start with include the following:
- Trust: A revocable legal entity that owns your property during your life and continues to hold it or distributes it upon your death
- Will: A legal document that directs where your property goes when you die (as a backup to the Trust)
- Durable Power of Attorney: Allows you to appoint someone to manage your non-Trust assets on your behalf if you are not mentally or physically able to do so
- Healthcare Directive: Allows you to appoint a trusted person to make health care decisions and other important decisions about yourself, including life-sustaining treatment under certain circumstances
What Happens if You Don’t Have an Estate Plan in California
If you die without having executed any formal direction as to where you want your property to go, the state of California has a default distribution plan. The property will pass to certain family members in such amounts as the law directs. No special consideration is given to individual circumstances. And it will go through the Probate Court System. This is not recommended.
Except for estates that are below a certain dollar value ($166,250 as of 1/1/2020), most estates will require a court process called probate in order to legally transfer property to your beneficiaries. The court will appoint people to gather up and value your property and your estate will pay these people for their services. This process becomes more complex and expensive the more property a person has.
How to Get Started With Your Estate Plan
Perhaps another reason that estate planning seems so easy not to get around to is that there is no set time by which you should have it done. The younger you are the more time you think you have. The older you are the more monumental the project may seem.
But the truth is that good planning – especially for circumstances that you may not be able to control when they happen – brings peace of mind and the knowing that those who mean the most to you will be certain of your wishes.
The Law Offices of Andrew Cohen make the estate planning process as easy and straightforward as possible. We find out about your property and your wishes and then work with you to establish a plan that best meets your needs. Our San Luis Obispo estate planning lawyer has solutions for simple as well as complex estates.