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Will mistakes could undermine your estate planning efforts

California readers understand the importance of planning ahead and laying the foundation for a strong future through a solid estate plan. However, even the best efforts and intentions can come up short when there are mistakes and issues with an estate plan. If you need to develop a plan for your estate or you have an existing plan, it may be beneficial to avoid missteps that could prove costly in the future.

Many people do not realize there are issues with their estate plan. Unfortunately, it is often after a person passed away or is not able to speak due to incapacitation that these issues arise and cause complications for beneficiaries and loved ones. Even small mistakes may mean your assets will not go where you intended, and your medical wishes may not be honored. 

Will your children fight over their inheritances?

As your children grew, you may have marveled at how differently their personalities and interests developed. As much as you wanted to treat them all the same, you soon found this was not possible. Certainly, you loved them equally, but some needed constant reassurance and others were more independent.

Now that you are planning your estate, you see how those differences may affect your choices. You hope your plan will be as fair as possible, but the last thing you want is to be the cause of contention and rifts among your children.

Is a will enough?

If you are preparing to go through the estate planning process, you may be wondering what you actually need to create a solid estate plan that will fit your goals. A will keeps coming to mind, but is it enough? Will it, on its own, offer the protections you want for yourself, your family and your assets? The truth is that it might not.

Creating a will is a good place for any California resident to start the estate planning process. It is an essential document as it holds a lot of information about your wants and wishes, but it may not cover everything.

Your property and the probate process

As you begin to consider the process of estate planning, you may feel overwhelmed with the options available and the ramifications of choosing each. One matter that may reoccur in your discussions with advisors is probate. While probate is a necessary process for one's estate, you are likely hearing advice about how to avoid it whenever possible.

If the issue that complicates your estate is real property, it may help you to understand how the ownership of that property affects its need for probate. Knowing this may help you make important decisions about how to prepare your real estate for probate.

What is the best place to keep my estate planning papers?

After overcoming the personal reasons that held you back from making an estate plan, you took the plunge, met with a skilled attorney and developed a plan that provides for your loved ones and gives you some peace of mind. The question you have now is what to do with those precious documents.

Wouldn't it be a tragedy if, after taking the time and energy to make your estate plan, your loved ones were unable to locate your papers when the time comes? If you become critically injured or gravely ill, would your family know where to find your power of attorney or health care proxy documents? When you pass away, will your loved ones have ready access to your will and trust? Meanwhile, if a fire or natural disaster strikes, will your estate plan be safe from destruction?

What type of end-of-life care will you prefer?

As you age, you -- like many other individuals -- may have come to terms with the fact that you will one day die. While this thought may not fill you with joy, it may also no longer fill you with dread or fear. As a result, you may feel ready to address the possibility that you could end up in a potentially terminal situation at some point in your remaining years.

While you may have accepted your eventual demise, you may still have opinions on how a serious health-related situation should be handled. Because you may not have the ability to voice those opinions when the need arises, you should plan ahead by creating a living will or other type of advance healthcare directive.

Could an ILIT suit your estate planning needs?

You may want to protect and provide for you family in many ways. This desire may have led you to take out a life insurance policy that could help your family financially in the event of your death. These policies are common and do provide assistance after the death of a loved one. However, the proceeds of these policies could potentially face taxation.

In order to further ease burdens on your family, you may want to help them avoid dealing with estate taxes after your death. Fortunately, a variety of methods could help you carry out this action. When it comes to avoiding taxes on life insurance proceeds in particular, you may want to take a closer look at an irrevocable life insurance trust.

Is your estate plan ready for your divorce?

Creating an estate plan not only provides security for your loved ones, but it can give you peace of mind as well, especially if your plan includes elements to protect your wishes while you are still alive. When you made your estate plan, you likely anticipated few major changes in your life. However, life often throws curve balls, and now you are facing a divorce.

Naturally, you have a lot to think about and plan. Preparing for a divorce can be time consuming as you gather and valuate your assets, determine custody of your children and decide who gets the house. One important item on your to-do list you should not postpone is the revision of your estate plan.

When does a California family need a special needs trust?

The types of tools you should use as part of your estate plan depends on the needs and objectives of your individual family. Every estate plan is different, and you can take steps to ensure that your plan meets your needs and helps you take care of your loved ones after you are gone.

If your California family cares for a special needs person, you can create a special needs trust to ensure that this person has the care he or she needs long into the future. This specific type of trust can protect assets and money you set aside for a person who lacks the capacity for self-care or money management. You may find it beneficial to explore the benefits of adding a trust as part of your complete estate plan.

Your estate plan and your addicted child

Like many families, yours may be watching with sorrow as one member struggles with addiction. The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries, and families from every corner of society have felt the impact of its control on the lives of loved ones. While many deal with feelings of shame and guilt, you may be among those who are also looking for a way to protect the rest of your family from the devastating effects of a sibling's addiction.

If you have resolved to make your estate plan, you may be hesitating because you are uncertain how to navigate your loved one's substance abuse. This conflict is becoming more common, and a skilled and experienced attorney can counsel you on some alternatives for your unique situation. However, you may wish to know how some options have played out in similar circumstances.

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