What documents are necessary for estate planning?
Now at the outset here, I’m going to say it depends. What you need needs to be individualized around your specific situation and it’s going to depend around your family dynamics, around your actual goals and wishes, around the level of wealth that you’ve achieved or expect to achieve and around what you do for a living and what’s your risk tolerance is. All of those little different nuances are going to affect what documents you need.
But the good news is in California we at least have a starting point. Four documents make up a basic estate plan for most families in California. A trust, will, health care directive, and financial power of attorney.
The trust, and when I say trust, I mean living trusts, revocable trust, family trust, call it what you’d like – is the document that’s going to pass things on to your kids outside of court and according to your wishes. A will is still necessary to act as a safety net. Anything we didn’t put into the trust, we left it in our names, we’re going to have the will sitting there to act as a safety net to catch that item and get it into the name of the trust. If you have minor kids, the will is also going to be the place for the guardianship nomination.
Your medical directive, also known as health care directive, medical power of attorney, living will, it’s generally now a consolidated document – it does three things: it names who your health care agent is, who should make decisions for you if you can’t make them on your own, what your wishes are and it allows them to see your medical records. The fourth one the financial power of attorney. That’s the person to step in your shoes and sign your name and control your finances if you can’t control them on your own.
With those four documents, you at least have a basic estate plan in California and that’s what most people are going to need as part of their estate plan. Again, the specific documents need to be catered to your individualized needs.
If you have any questions around what should be in your estate plan always feel free to give our estate planning attorneys a call or send us an email or here and we’re happy to help.