Protect Your Legacy with an Estate Plan

It is a misconception that estate planning is only for the wealthy elite. If you own assets, you need an estate plan, period. An effective estate plan protects your beneficiaries, reduces federal, estate, and estate inheritance taxes, and helps avoid disputes between family members.

If you want to create an estate plan by a law firm in Santa Rosa, but need help with how to proceed, you have come to the right place. We have compiled a list of the key steps in the estate planning process. Take a look.

Make a Will: If a person dies intestate, that is, without a will, the government distributes their assets according to their state’s laws. To ensure your wishes are carried out, create a will. Your will should include your personal information, the names of the beneficiaries, the executor, and appointed guardians for any pets or minor children.

Give Healthcare Directives: It is important that you put your healthcare wishes in writing. A healthcare directive must include a healthcare declaration/living will and power of attorney for healthcare, which gives the person chosen by you the authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Consider a Trust: A living trust is a legal document used to establish a trust to hold the settlor’s assets for their benefit during their lifetime. After the settlor passes away, the trustees transfer the assets placed in their trust to their designated beneficiaries. The biggest advantage of living trusts is that assets placed in them do not go through probate, which can be an extremely time-consuming and expensive process.

Make Sure Children Are Provided For: If you have minor children, be sure to name a legal guardian. You will also want to appoint a person to manage their financial affairs. This person can be your children’s legal guardian or some other person you trust.

Make a Financial Power of Attorney: Appoint a person to handle your finances and property if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Consider Insurance: If you own a house, have children, or owe a large amount of debt or estate taxes, you will want to take out insurance.

File Beneficiary Forms: When you name a beneficiary for bank accounts and retirement plans, the account becomes automatically payable on death. Similarly, registered stocks, bonds or brokerage accounts will be automatically transferred to the designated beneficiary upon your death.

Cover Funeral Expenses: To lift the burden of funeral expenses off your loved ones’ shoulders, set up a payable-on-death bank account or prepay for your funeral. Put your end-of-life wishes regarding organ donation and the disposition of your body in writing.

Johnston & Associates, Attorneys at Law, is a reputable law firm in Santa Rosa. Our attorneys have an unparalleled ability to develop customized legal solutions to meet the specific legal needs of our clients. To learn more, call (707) 545-6542.