Overview of Estate Plans and Trusts

An estate plan is essential; if you do not have an estate plan things you would probably prefer to decide for yourself will be decided for you by others.

  • Who would manage your finances if you become unable to do so yourself?
  • Who would make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself?
  • Would you prefer to die a natural death or be kept artificially alive?
  • Who would be the guardian of your minor children?
  • Who would administer your estate after your death?
  • Who would inherit your property upon your death?

These are just a few of the many matters you can control with the right estate planning documents. Without an estate plan, these and other important decisions will be made by courts, legal statutes, or individuals who may not be the people you would have selected. These may be some of the most important decisions in your life. They can affect you significantly if you become disabled, and affect your loved ones after your death.

If a family member has chronic care or special needs issues, public benefits planning can be an important part of an estate plan. In such cases, a plan with specialized language is important to assure both the appropriate care and asset preservation. Unfortunately, we often find that the language allowing you to do such planning is missing, or worse; we find language that makes it impossible. Two examples among many:

  • No authority in powers of attorney for “Medi-Cal” or VA planning. Contrary to popular belief, a general durable power of attorney is not enough. These powers must be spelled out.
  • “A/B” trust provisions requiring division of assets upon death of first spouse. Such language usually serves no useful purpose under existing tax law, but it can block any effective benefits planning for the funds transferred under the “A/B” provisions.

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