Estate planning in California is a complex process that requires the consideration and review of finances, insurance, taxes, as well as plans for charitable donations, and/or transfer of wealth to heirs using a will or a living trust. It is important to consult with a California estate planning attorney if there have been any significant life changes, to understand the impact of the new tax law legislation, and to update any required legal documentation.
Estate planning is an ongoing process and the plans should be reviewed with the help of an estate planning attorney on a regular basis, especially if any life circumstances have changed.
Examples of life changes that warrant a review of estate planning include:
- Marriage or divorce
- Birth of a child or grandchildren
- Sale or transfer of a business
- Family disputes
- Death of a spouse or an heir
- Change of wishes
Tax Law Changes
The federal tax laws are now changing. Even those that previously conducted a thorough process for estate planning in California would be wise to consult with an estate planning attorney again for a complete review and recommendations. Some issues that may need consideration:
- Mortgage interest deductions
- Federal Income Tax deduction allowed for California State taxes
- Estate taxes
Life changes and tax law changes require consideration of the impact they may have on the terms of your estate plan. If you do not already have a will, you may need one. As an alternative to having a will, which requires a court-monitored process upon death called probate, many California estate planning attorneys recommend having a living trust instead.
Wills in California
A will is a document that identifies the heirs to the estate and the person who will be in charge of the process after a person dies called the executor of the estate. The executor will manage the estate and will work with the probate court in the proper jurisdiction, which will likely monitor the entire process including distributing the assets of the estate.
If a person dies without a will, California probate law will direct the distribution of any remaining assets. Wills can be contested in court and the probate process can be delayed by such a contested will. Typical problems come up when family members or the next of kin have disputes about a will’s legitimacy or its allocations of the distribution of the assets.
Living Trusts in California
A living trust generally avoids the court probate process when established correctly. Upon the death of a person who has a living trust in place, the control of all the assets held in the trust immediately transfers to the person who is nominated as the successor trustee of the trust.
A living trust can be a very effective part of estate planning to give the surviving spouse immediate control over all the assets. It is also a useful structure when there is a business involved because the business can continue to operate without interruption and may not have to be sold upon the owner’s death.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in California
Working with a qualified attorney for estate planning is a wise choice due to the complex nature of the decisions and legal documentation needed. Virtually every estate planning process in California should be regularly reviewed and restated when necessary. Contact the Law Office of Justin Anton McCrea to speak with a California estate planning attorney.