Estate Planning Documents

Fresno CA Estate Planner

Estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth. Call Attorney Philip M. Flanigan at 559-435-0455 or 1-888-435-0455.

When it comes to estate planning, what’s not done is often the biggest mistake made. Even people who realize the importance of proper planning often don’t have a proper plan in place.

From psychological difficulties in facing one’s own mortality to the more mundane problem of simply finding the time, the reasons people avoid developing an estate plan are as diverse as the individuals themselves. Still, nearly everyone—from the wealthy to those of very modest means—can benefit from a well-designed plan.

Without any estate plan in place, federal and state laws dictate how property, personal items and assets are divided, with no regard to the individual’s wishes. Conflicts due to family issues and legal problems often result, tying up the estate and slowing down the distribution of assets. Additional administrative expenses and taxes, which must be deducted from the estate, can also reduce its overall value before distribution.

While a Will often serves as its cornerstone, a true estate plan encompasses many more facets and presents a broader picture of your current estate and how it might look upon your death.

In many instances, a trust may be created as part of the plan to specify how assets may be managed during life, at death, and even for generations beyond. Other documents, such as powers of attorney and health care powers, which specify who may act on your behalf in legal, financial and medical matters, if you are unable to do so, should be included.

An estate plan can serve as a road map, guiding you to the goals you would like to achieve.

The estate planning process is different for every individual. Not everyone is in the same life stage, nor do they have the same objectives and income needs throughout life. As individuals grow older, their goals may change, but at any stage in life, most individuals want to manage risk, accumulate assets and preserve assets with their estate plan.

Establish Goals & Objectives

In order to transfer the majority of your assets and wealth to specific beneficiaries, property must be distributed without conflict, administrative expenses and taxes must be reduced and payment of unavoidable estate expenses must be made quickly.

  • Distribution Without Conflict — Your distribution objectives should be centered around how you want to distribute your property. And the broad definition of property includes more than just real estate. It includes your financial and tangible assets as well. Once you have decided how you want to pass on your possessions, evaluate your current ownership situation. Throughout your life, you should revisit your property ownership to make sure that it is not in conflict with your distribution objectives.
  • Reduce Expenses — Another goal of your plan should be to reduce expenses. Specifically, a good plan will look for ways to reduce estate taxes and avoid probate taxes while still meeting your distribution objectives. Estate planning is an ongoing process that attempts to preserve assets so that they may be passed on to your survivors according to your wishes.
  • Pay Expenses Quickly —The final goal of estate planning is to make sure sufficient funds are available to pay estate expenses when they are due and to pay them in the most efficient manner. Accomplishing this increases the chance of your estate being distributed to beneficiaries in a more timely manner.
  • When constructing your estate plan there are three major concepts to keep in mind. You should calculate the assets you own and determine the type of ownership associated with it. You should evaluate what kinds of property transfers you want to make before and after your death. Finally, you should become familiar with how estate shrinkage occurs and the kinds of death and estate taxes that exist.

Ten Reasons To Create An Estate Plan

Many people think that estate planning is for someone else, not them. They may rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the benefits of an estate “plan”. But as the following list makes clear, estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth.

  1. Loss of capacity. What if you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan the court will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person (through a durable Power of Attorney or Living Trust.)
  2. Minor children. Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.
  3. Dying without a will. Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to the laws of intestate succession (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.
  4. Blended families. What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.
  5. Children with special needs. Without a plan, a child with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medi-Cal or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for care. With a plan, you can set up a Special Needs Trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses.
  6. Keeping assets in the family. Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren.
  7. Financial security. Will your spouse and children be able to survive financially? Without a plan and the income replacement provided by life insurance, your family may be unable to maintain its current living standard. With a plan, life insurance can mean that your family will enjoy financial security.
  8. Retirement accounts. Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs. With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.
  9. Business ownership. Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don’t name a successor, thus risking that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gone.
  10. Avoiding probate. Without a plan, your estate may be subject to court delays and excess fees and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that probate can be avoided entirely. This will assure that your assets pass to your heirs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

As you can see, estate planning  really is for everyone.  Whether you have a little or a lot, taking steps to assure that your wishes are made known will give you the peace of mind in knowing that your affairs are in order.  Taking steps now will help minimize delays, minimize costs and help make sure that your heirs do not fight over your assets once you are gone.  Call and schedule your free consultation today and be on your way to achieving peace of mind through a well planned estate.