Unlike issues we deal with in other areas of our lives, estate planning is something people either don’t want to talk about, or they tell themselves they will do it later. Estate planning isn’t only for dying, it is for the living as well and that includes you!
No one likes to think about the prospect of dying, but it is something that is going to happen to everyone. Some people are fortunate to live a long, healthy life, while others are cut tragically short through illness or accident. Even worse, sometimes people live for years after a stroke or injury, unable to care for themselves.
I have had more than one person tell me, “I don’t care what happens after I am gone. My kids can figure it out.” What they don’t consider is that the estate planning you do may ultimately benefit you while you are alive. Estate planning isn’t only for distribution of your estate upon your death, it can also include selecting someone to manage your estate while you are alive. Many people only think in terms of estate planning to handle things after they die. All too often the trust becomes a significant benefit while you are alive.
Have you considered what would happen if you had a stroke or were in a coma, but didn't die?
Who would take care of you? What if something happened to that person?
How would they do it?
Would they respect your wishes?
Don't assume just because you're married, your spouse can do it. Even if the spouse can handle some aspects of your affairs, what if your spouse was in the same condition because of an accident or other catastrophic event?
Actually, if you don’t make any plans for your estate and you die, it is fairly straightforward what will happen to it. California law tells us which relatives will get your estate and in what proportions. That distribution may not be in accordance with your wishes, and may not best meet the needs of your family, but it is clear who will get your property. In the event you don’t have relatives with a close enough relationship, the state will be happy to take your assets and add them to the state’s general fund.
Where it becomes a problem during your life is when you suffer a debilitating injury or illness and can no longer handle your own affairs. Someone, possibly a spouse or child if you have one, will have to go to court to be appointed Conservator of your person and/or your estate. More than likely they will need to hire an attorney. If there are assets in your estate, a bond will have to be provided. Periodic accountings will have to be filed with the court and the Conservator is entitled to be compensated. The attorney’s fees, bond fees, court costs and Conservator compensation all come out of your assets, even though at this point you probably won’t have anything to say about it. The Conservator may, or may not, be someone you would have chosen. It might be that relative you never liked, and would never have picked. It could be someone determined to spend as little of your money on your care, so more of it will be left to distribute after you are gone.
With planning, you can nominate the person you want to serve as Conservator and the terms and conditions on which they may act. You can probably avoid the Conservatorship proceedings and related attorney fee’s, court costs, bond expense and Conservator compensation altogether.
Now is the time to act, while you are thinking about it. You may not get a second chance to think about it again. Call us, we can help.