In California, a majority of people do not even have a will, which is a basic estate planning tool at the heart of many estate plans. This applies to people with a large amount of assets and those with a modest financial picture. Persons in both financial categories need to have basic estate planning to maximize their asset holdings during life and to provide for a smooth distribution of assets to the heirs that the person wants to receive the assets.
Estate planning does not deal solely with things that happen after death. Estate planning is defined generally as a process of designing a plan during life that will manage and dispose of one's assets both during life and after death. Estate planning includes the effort to minimize a person's gift, estate and income tax expenses. Because each state has a set of laws that dictate how a person's estate will be distributed after death when there is no will, many people strive to make sure that they always have a current, updated will.
The process of doing this is best accomplished by maintaining a working relationship with an experienced estate planning attorney. It is no small benefit to have the guidance and the benefit of many years of experience at one's behest. It is generally known that there are three reasons for people to engage in estate planning in California. One of those reasons is to minimize probate fees and various taxes. Another is asset protection, and the third is to maintain control over the distribution of one's assets.
These are fact-specific issues that will vary from case to case. In some cases, a living trust may be chosen as an integral part of the estate plan. The true key to getting an effective plan is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws of estates in California. In this way, the person can set up a plan that leaves no questions unanswered and which provides for a distribution exactly as desired by the individual.
Source: Forbes, "The 3 Reasons Why People Do Estate Planning", Joel Johnson, May 21, 2018