A few decades ago, when most Americans thought about estate planning, they contemplated scratching out a simple will. Little more than this was needed to manage their affairs unless they were particularly wealthy, owned a business or other complex assets or were ahead of their time when it came to estate planning. However, nowadays, even basic estate plans consist of a minimum of three different estate planning tools. As estate planning itself becomes more complex, so does the documentation that governs this process.
As a result, it is important to avoid the temptation to simply look up estate planning templates online and fill them out without any professional legal guidance. The fact is that there is simply too much at stake to risk that you may not complete your estate planning documentation in ways that courts will deem to be legally enforceable.
If you’ve reached the age of majority, your parents are no longer automatically entrusted, by law, with making decisions on your behalf in the event that something should happen to you. Even if you don’t yet own more than a few pieces of sentimental property, you’re not a parent, and you don’t have pets, it is vital that you have a comprehensive estate plan both in place and kept up to date at all times.
Wills, Living Trusts, and Digital Estate Plans
If you own any property that is financially valuable and/or sentimental, you’ll need to work with an attorney to draft a will or set up a living trust. A living trust functions much as a will does, except that it passes assets to beneficiaries in such a way that they can avoid probate. Your will or living trust will be primarily concerned with the distribution of your assets upon your death.
Don’t forget to speak with an attorney about your digital estate planning needs. As an experienced Sacramento estate planning lawyer – including those who practice at Yee Law Group Inc. – can confirm, most people don’t take steps to safeguard access to their digital footprint in the event of their death or incapacitation. You’ll want to take these steps.
Powers of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives
Putting a power of attorney in place will help to ensure that your affairs are tended to and decisions are made on your behalf by someone you trust in the event that you’re incapacitated by illness or injury. An advance healthcare directive will help your care team to know what medical care measures you do and do not wish to be subjected to in the event that something happens to you.
Beneficiary Designations and Guardianship Considerations
If you have minor or dependent children, you’ll need to name a guardian for them in the event that you can no longer care for them due to incapacitation or death. You’ll also want to name them as beneficiaries on asset-driven accounts.