Protecting Everyone You Love and Everything You Care About
What would happen to your family, your assets, your business, and/or your livelihood if something unexpected happened to you?
Our Trust and Estate attorneys in Orange County work with clients of all backgrounds to uncover the answers to these questions. We understand that each family has different planning needs, so we work hard to create customized plans that ensure the protection of our clients' wealth and life's work, their independence, dignity, their children, grandchildren, and their most personal wishes in the event of death, disability, or incapacity.
Estate Planning Documents Every Adult Needs
We have all heard the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Nowhere does this adage apply more than with planning our estates. The American Bar Association has reported that nearly two-thirds of all Americans do not have even a simple will! We recognize that the underlying goal of preparing a simple estate plan is to make life easier on the people you love the most during a most difficult time.
Every estate plan should include some very basic documents, such as:
A Living Trust
A living trust serves as the foundation of most estate plans, as it allows the Trustmaker the ability to set specific controls as to how their assets and property will be allocated during their lifetime, upon their incapacitation, and ultimately distributed upon their passing. A properly drafted trust can ensure that you and your loved ones are provided for according to your wishes. It can also provide restrictions to those inheriting money or property, especially children or those susceptible to undue influence, safeguarding their inheritance so it is not squandered, mismanaged or lost due to divorce or bankruptcy. A properly funded trust will keep your assets out of Probate Court, sparing your family significant time, headaches and legal fees after you are gone.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament can also be a useful tool to specify how you would like your assets to be distributed upon your passing. Unlike a living trust, however, a Will becomes effective only upon one's passing, so it cannot assist you if you become incapacitated. A Will is also public record and will have to go through the Probate Court, before any of your assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries. This process is timely and very costly. In a living-trust centered estate plan, the Will is known as a “Pour-Over Will”; its primary purpose is to transfer assets to your trust that were not transferred during your lifetime.
General Financial Durable Power of Attorney
This document, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney, gives the individual(s) you select the authority to manage your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so yourself. The General Financial Durable Power of Attorney can go into effect immediately or it can become effective only upon your incapacity. With good counseling, clients develop their own "definition" of incapacity in order to maintain complete financial control unless and until incapacity strikes.
Advance Health Care Directive
The Advance Health Care Directive (formerly called a “Healthcare Power of Attorney or Living Will”) is a document that gives the people you select the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, according to your wishes, when you are unable to do so yourself. If you do not have an Advance Health Care Directive and you are not able to make your own health care decisions, the courts may have to get involved to decide what type of care you will receive. As illustrated by the highly publicized Terry Shiavo case in Florida, this can have a profound impact on your family (and not a positive one!). The Advance Health Care Directive specifically instructs your family and physicians about your wishes concerning end-of-life decisions, ensuring that your loved ones are not placed in the position of having to make such a difficult choices.
HIPAA Authorization Release
As most of us know, HIPAA regulations prevent unauthorized individuals from communicating with medical professionals about one's condition, history, test results, billing information, etc. By executing a HIPAA Authorization Release, you can allow designated individuals the ability to quickly and freely communicate with medical professionals.
Nomination of Guardians
One of the most difficult aspects of creating your estate plan is contemplating your children's safety and security once you are gone. Executing a Nomination of Guardian will allow the individuals you trust to care for your minor children upon your passing, and ensure they are not subject to a custody battle or have to spend time in foster care. You should also create a “Letter of Instructions”, which will provide guidance to your children's guardians, instructing them as to how your children should be raised.
An Estate Plan Is Great…
But Will Your Loved Ones Know What to DO in an Emergency?
A well-crafted estate plan should focus on making life as easy as possible for your family and loved ones, if and when something happens to you. Unfortunately, most people are sent home from their lawyer's office with a huge stack of documents, but no real training or understanding of how to use them when the time comes.
Our Newport Beach estate planning lawyers are committed to ensuring that the people you love have fast access to your plan, and the guidance they need to carry out your wishes when it counts, by helping you create the following tools and resources:
- Personal Instructions: All of the documents we described above provide your loved ones with the power to make decisions on your behalf. Unfortunately, they do not provide much guidance on how to exercise the authority given to them. Our law firm uniquely provides clients with a number of checklists, outlines, and overviews that enable them to clearly provide loved ones with instructions for final arrangements. We have been told countless times by a client's family members how grateful they were that they were left detailed instructions on what action to take at the appropriate time.
- Document Storage: People who pay to have an Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAA Authorization Relase prepared often fail to consider where these documents must be stored so they are easily accessible in an emergency. Some studies have found that four out of five times, a person's Advance Heatlh Care Directive is not available when it is needed. We provide our new Estate Planning clients with the opportunity to participate in the DocuBank® electronic document storage service, for the first year, free of charge. DocuBank® enables your physicians and/or family the ability to secure a copy of your health care documents anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night. Click here to learn more about the DocuBank® service.
- Final Arrangements: Thinking about how you want your final arrangements handled may not be the most uplifting of topics, but it is an important aspect of your estate plan that you should consider. Often, family members may disagree as to how your final arrangements should be handled. We will provide you with a unique, customizable document, which includes a checklist of issues to consider in documenting your feelings on this important matter.
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Why Choose The Law Office of Susan A. Katzen to Create Your Estate Plan?
Our dedicated, knowledgeable attorneys and staff work with our clients to design personalized plans that address the specific needs of each client. We recognize that planning is an ongoing life process, and that our clients' needs and lives will change over time. We provide plans that promote familial harmony and provide a lasting legacy that will continue to reflect our clients' values and ideals for generations to come.
If you are ready to meet with our Newport Beach will and trust attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs in more detail, please contact our office at (714) 374-2244. Simply mention our website to receive a complimentary 30 minute consultation, which we are happy to host in person or via Zoom video conference.