By Santa Barbara Will and Trust Attorney Julianna Malis
Santa Barbara estate planning lawyers are often asked by their clients to explain what comprises a basic estate plan. Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to this question because an estate plan all depends on the situation and the needs of the individual. For instance, a basic estate plan for one person might include a Revocable Living Trust, while for another, it might only consist of a Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. However, there are a few basic documents that the majority of adults will need when they decide to finally tackle their estate planning. They are as follows:
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is a necessary document to direct how your estate is distributed upon your passing. A basic Last Will and Testament will not save you from estate taxes or probate proceedings, but it will allow you the comfort of knowing that the people you want to benefit from your estate will receive their inheritance. Santa Barbara estate planning lawyers recommend that any individual with even a modest amount of assets they'd like to leave behind to loved ones should create a Last Will and Testament.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney allows an agent to act on your behalf in financial, business, and real estate matters if you should ever become incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle your own affairs. Unlike a Last Will and Testament, the Power of Attorney is only in effect during your lifetime. Depending on the type of Power of Attorney, it may only be active if certain criteria are met. A Santa Barbara estate planning lawyer can help you decide what kind of Power of Attorney is right for your situation.
Advance Health Care Directive
An Advance Heathcare Directive allows your medical wishes to be known to family, healthcare personnel, and caretakers in the event that you become incapacitated. An Advance Heathcare Directive also allows you to name agents who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to yourself. An estate planning attorney in Santa Barbara can help you decide what kind of health guidelines should be put forth in An Advance Heathcare Directive and who might be the best healthcare agents to name in the document.
Beneficiary designations on financial accounts and insurance policies are a simple way of protecting your estate from the probate process, but they should always be done with the guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer. For example, naming an underage minor as the beneficiary on an account will cause problems because a minor cannot inherit property. A guardian will have to be named instead, and the process will become even more complicated. Consult with a Santa Barbara estate planning lawyer if you are thinking about naming beneficiaries on your accounts or policies.
A Safe Place
One thing that's common to every estate plan, no matter how large or small, is the need for a safe place to store your documents. Your loved ones will need access to the documents in the event of your incapacitation or death, and having lost documents is the same thing as having no documents at all. To avoid this scenario, make sure you put your estate planning documents in a safe place and let your loved ones know how to find them when the need arises.
If you have any further estate planning questions or if you would like to know what type of estate plan is right for your situation, please contact us at (805) 965-1550 to set up a consultation.