Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning

What is estate planning?

A person’s estate is comprised of all the real and personal property that belongs to him at the time of death. Estates include both assets and debts. Estate planning is the process of anticipating both the needs of the owner in later life, and the needs of those who survive him. Your estate planning attorney will help you prepare documentation that:

  • Protects you and your spouse during your lifetimes
  • Clearly identifies the ultimate beneficiaries of your estate, and anticipates any special needs or problems
  • If appropriate, avoids probate delay and expense
  • Considers and addresses tax issues

 

Redondo Beach estate planning attorney

What are the major tasks of estate planning?

When you and your lawyer plan your estate, you will need to do the following:

  • Put together a will and/or trust.
  • Name an executor of the estate, and if there is a trust, successor trustees.  This person will be in charge of making sure the provisions of the will/trust are carried out, so he/she should be someone you trust implicitly.
  • Determine a guardian for minor children
  • Plan in order to limit estate taxes (although with the new estate tax exemption amount — for 2014 $5.34 million for individuals and $10.68 million for married couples — the estate tax is no longer a concern for most people)
  • Consider funeral arrangements
  • Make sure life insurance, IRAs, 401(k) plans, and pensions reflect the current correct beneficiaries
  • Consider the need for a Health Care Directive and Financial Power of Attorney

What is a trust, and how can it benefit my heirs?

Trusts are very useful instruments that carry a number of advantages. Your Redondo Beach estate planning attorney will tell you that a trust can help the estate to:

  • Avoid probate and thereby greatly simplify estate distribution and avoid expense
  • Anticipate and provide for the possibility that you or your spouse becomes incapacitated, and avoid court supervised conservators
  • Consider any tax issues
  • Control the distribution of the estate
  • Maintain the privacy of assets and finances

If I have an estate plan, do I ever need to alter or review it?

It is important to keep in mind that an estate plan needs to be reviewed occasionally in order to account for the many changes that life can bring. Tax laws change, beneficiaries move to other states, and changes in the family occur through birth, death, and divorce. Your Redondo Beach estate planning attorney recommends that you review your estate plan every 2-3 years.

What can happen if I don’t have an estate plan?

Most people understand and intend to keep their “affairs in order” so that beneficiaries, spouses, and family have a way to move forward upon one’s incapacity or passing.  Effective estate planning is the process of putting one’s affairs in order.  Without an adequate estate plan, upon death, a court proceeding will likely be necessary and your assets will be distributed  according to the state’s rules of intestacy.   Those rules might surprise you.

Simple animated scenarios of intestacy in California:

Married couple: no estate plan

Single, never married, no children: no estate plan

Estate Planning for the LGBT Community

For help with your estate planning needs

When you develop a plan for leaving assets to your heirs, it is very important to work with a knowledgeable Redondo Beach estate planning attorney who understands the complexities of probate law. ETM lawyer E. Thomas Moroney has extensive experience helping individuals with their estate planning needs. Call the Law Offices of E. Thomas Moroney today.

E. Thomas Moroney, Attorney
811 N. Catalina Ave., Ste. 2206
Redondo Beach, California 90277
(310) 318-1400

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