Estate planning in California involves organizing one's affairs in case of death or incapacity. That the process deals with one's own death may account for the fact that less than half of the country's population has a properly drawn-up will. However, many more people may have elements of estate planning in place by way of beneficiary designations in their insurance policies, retirement plans and the like.
The first formal step to get an estate plan established is to make up a list of all of one's assets and liabilities. The best place to start is at the beginning, and it is difficult to put together a plan without knowing all of one's financial details. A good bet as the second step will be to sit down and create a list of who will be the beneficiary of each of the assets.
Where there is a young married couple making their first plan, they will naturally leave everything to each other, and if they are both deceased, then to their children to be shared equally. Where the children are minors, the will designates a guardian of the money of the child and a guardian of the person of the minor, if both parents should die in close proximity to each other. A trusted family member or friend is generally designated as the personal representative who is given the responsibility of seeing to it that the estate is fully and properly administered after the will-maker's death.
As indicated, beneficiaries may already be in place outside of the will for certain investment and insurance accounts. This can be a convenience, but one must always remember to check on the beneficiary designations every year or two to assure that they are current and reflect one's preferred choice at that time. For California residents, there are many other planning considerations and strategies that must be discussed and evaluated. It is highly recommended that the individual take advantage of a free consultation with an estate planning professional to determine what options to select going forward.
Source: morningstar.com, "An Estate Planning Checklist", Christine Benz, July 27, 2017