Do You Have a Will?

According to Financial Planning Magazine, March 2010, nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a will. When that occurs, the person dies in a condition that’s called intestate — dying without a valid will.  This leaves it up to a judge and the laws of the state to determine the distribution of their assets and belongings.

Document Your Decisions

A Last Will and Testament provides for the care of minor children by establishing guardianship and dictates how you want your remaining assets divided among your heirs. An executor is named to oversee the distribution of assets and pay any taxes, debts or other obligations that are due.

An Advance Healthcare Directive is a Living Will (which expresses your preferences concerning life-sustaining procedures) or a Healthcare Power of Attorney (which allows an individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf) or both.

A living trust, or inter vivos trust (inter vivos is Latin for “between the living”), is a trust  created during a person’s lifetime to either save money on taxes or set up long term property management. All living trusts are designed to avoid probate proceedings and may in addition be used to reduce taxes, safeguard financial privacy, and to regulate the use of assets if the owner becomes incapacitated, and for other purposes.

These powerful estate planning tools are designed to express your desires clearly and to provide guidance to your family and/or representatives during a difficult time when you would be unable to do so yourself.

Legal documents are binding once they are prepared and filed, and estate tax laws are complex and change frequently. For these reasons, you may want to consult an experienced legal professional who can guide you through the difficult decisions and carry out your wishes.  Keep in mind that estate planning is a lifelong process that calls for regular adjustments as the law or your personal financial situation changes. Certain life events in particular (such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, death of a loved one, a move to another state or retirement) prompt the need to review and update your plan along with the associated documents as soon as possible.

Don’t Delay This Important Planning

I’ve seen the results of unexpected death without any prior planning.  It can cause great financial hardships on the family, create huge legal and tax expenses that drain the assets of the estate, and can cause cause divisive tension and infighting among family members.  All of this is so simple to avoid with just a little planning and documentation.  Wills are NOT expensive and can provide great peace of mind for both the person creating the will and the family.

Nobody has a lease on life that’s guaranteed to last into your 90’s.  Any of us can be taken out of this world at any time.  Please take the time TODAY to start your planning process with a will or a living trust.  I can refer you to wonderful people here in San Diego that can draw these documents up for you at a very reasonable price.  Call me!

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