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4 Key Components to California Estate Planning

Dec. 20, 2019

Many people believe that only the rich need an estate plan. This is not the case. Even if you do not have many assets, you still have an estate. As such, it is important to plan for what happens to that estate once you are gone.

No one likes thinking about their own death. Yet, having a solid estate plan will give you peace of mind knowing you have protection for your estate and your loved ones.

When considering California estate planning, speak to an experienced California estate planning lawyer to help you craft the best estate plan for your needs.

The California Estate Planning Components

California estate planning is more than just drafting a Will. It involves a deeper analysis of your estate, your circumstances, and your lifestyle. It involves creating a customized plan that offers maximum protection for your estate while giving you the flexibility and freedom you need now.

Every estate plan is different. However, most California estate plans have four important components.

1. Will

A Will is a legal document that provides direction on the division of your property when you die. If you die without a Will, California's rules of intestate succession will determine the division of your property. This means you will not have control over who gets your estate.

While there are many benefits of having a Will, they must go through probate in the state of California. Probate is a lengthy and expensive process. As such, many people wish to avoid the probate process entirely. To do that, you will want to consider a living trust as a component of your estate plan.

2. Living Trust

A living trust, also formally known as a “revocable trust”, is a document in which the trustee owns the property for the named beneficiaries. You would serve as the trustee of this property. When you die, your living trust will specify the division of property and who would become the trustee after you have passed.

The benefit of a living trust is that your loved ones can avoid probate. The living trust arrangement is a private probate process and much easier than going to public court.

Living trusts, combined with a Will, offer the most protection for your estate. You can change or revoke a revocable trust at any time. This makes it a flexible option for many individuals.

3. General Durable Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that gives someone else authority over your finances and your property if you become incapacitated. This is a vital document that can protect your estate if you are suddenly sick and unable to make decisions for yourself. It is important to consider who in your life is capable of making those types of decisions for you.

4. Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive is a form similar to a general durable power of attorney. However, it specifically grants someone the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.

This is a powerful document that states your own wishes for end-of-life treatment. It also gives directions on what to do if you become unconscious or incapacitated. You can designate a primary physician and determine if you will donate organs when you die.

Completing this document is important. It tells your loved ones and the medical team who to turn to when they need to make important medical decisions. It also provides your own guidance to help take some of the decision-making burdens off of your loved ones.

Contact Our California Estate Planning Lawyers

It is important to safeguard your estate once you are gone. An estate plan can help you determine who gets your estate. It can also help you protect your loved ones from lengthy probate. Unfortunately, many people believe they can do it themselves without the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. As a result, they could make costly mistakes.

To learn more about estate planning in California, contact the California estate planning lawyers at Davidson Estate Law at or fill out our confidential contact form. Our main office is located in Oakland, but we also have offices in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Jose, and San Mateo to better serve you.