In addition to being hampered by a fear of their own mortality, many people are reluctant to make an estate plan because they believe that estate planning will result in a loss of control over their assets. Don't fall victim to this misconception!
If you sit back and do nothing, you are essentially ceding control of your estate to the government of the state in which you live. When you die without a will, your property is distributed in accordance with your state's intestacy laws. In California, this means that your property is given to your closest living relative. If you're married, your spouse inherits your half of the community property, and either all or part of your separate property. If you're single, either your children, parents, or siblings inherit your assets.
When you create a will, your wishes will be followed as long as the document is properly prepared and you're of sound mind to make your own decisions regarding the distribution of your assets.
An irrevocable trust, used for asset protection and estate tax reduction, helps you maintain control over your assets when it is properly drafted. To make a change to the trust, it's true that you need the cooperation of the person you've named as the trustee. However, as the owner of the trust, you have the full authority to "fire" the trustee and appoint someone else if you so choose. So, in the end, control remains with you.
Power of attorney forms should also be a part of your estate plan. These documents are created to grant someone the authority to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so. They serve a vital purpose, but it's true that they are sometimes abused. To protect yourself, you can customize the power of attorney documents to your individual situation by adding provisions such as not allowing the agent to make gifts to others on your behalf, or requiring a second person to review all actions taken by your agent. You should also keep in mind that you can revoke the power of attorney at any time if you feel like it is being abused or you'd like to name a different agent.
How Can We Help?
If you are in need of legal representation relating to an estate planning issue, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com. Our family practice attorneys are happy to meet with you to discuss your concerns and develop a customized estate plan that will best meet your needs.