Have you ever thought about whether you needed a will or a trust? Do you need to speak to an attorney about such documents, or can you write them for yourself? An estate plan is definitely something most people need to think about. Today, most people can draft an estate plan which may or may not include a trust or a will on their own. There is no requirement that an attorney be the person to draft these very important documents. There is actually no shortage of online services and products which can draft a trust and/or will for you.

Some of these services sell trusts and wills as a device to get a look at a client's assets so that they can sell them more products: annuities, life insurance, or investments, based on the notion that these products are somehow important to the client's estate plan. The bottom line is that more often than not, these services are usually driven by another motive, not loyalty to the client. At Paraclete Law our main goal is to tailor you an estate plan that fits your needs, and nothing else.

Below are some of the basic concepts and components to estate planning:

Trusts 
There are many advantages to creating a trust. The biggest one is that a properly drafted trust can help ensure that your estate does not have to go through the long and expensive process of probate when you die. Probate is just a fancy word for the court process through which property is distributed if a person does not have a trust. In addition, depending on the size of your estate, a trust may be a very wise tool to avoid unnecessary estate taxes, for your spouse or your heirs. In addition, trusts generally are not public record.

Wills 
Wills are still a vital part of an estate plan. In California, a will without a trust must still pass through the probate system; for some people, this is another good reason to have a trust. A will will also generally become public record. A will is a legal document that tells how a person’s assets will be distributed after they die.  Although we use a revocable living trust to avoid the need for probate, we always include a will that covers any assets that are not included in the trust, for any reason.  This type of will is called a pour-over will.  The benefit of having this type of will is that it ensures that you have control over how all of your assets are distributed.  Using a pour-over will also saves your beneficiary time and money that might be spent in the probate process.

Advanced Estate Planning 
A simple estate plan generally consists of a trust, a will, a power of attorney for asset management, and a health care directive. Some people, however, can benefit from a more advanced estate planning strategy to minimize estate taxation on death. Different strategies includes gifting programs, irrevocable life insurance trusts and grantor-retained annuity trusts. There is not a "one size fits all" estate plan, and so, speaking to an attorney may be particularly helpful. 

Incapacity Planning 
If you become incapacitated, that is, if you are unable to competently make decisions, an estate plan could include an agent who you have appointed that is empowered to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. A well drafted power of attorney for asset management and an updated health care directive is vital to your financial and personal well-being should something unexpected happen to you. Planning like this helps to ensure that your loved ones are cared for in the event you are not able to make decisions for them.

At Paraclete Law, we can help you design an estate plan that suits your needs.


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