Must-Have Estate Planning Documents


If you're starting to think about your estate planning needs, you may be wondering what type of documents you should have prepared.

The most common type of estate planning document is a last will and testament. This is a written document explaining how you want your property and assets distributed after your death. It can also be used to name a guardian for your minor children, if you are a parent.

A living trust is similar to a will in that it can be used to transfer assets to beneficiaries. It is different from a will because it is not normally subject to probate court, which saves on attorney's fees and court costs. If you have children, a living trust allows you to specify when they will be allowed to claim ownership of assets held within the trust. If any of your heirs have special needs, a trust can also be used to fund their care while limiting their direct access to your assets. The biggest drawback to a living trust is that this document requires a greater initial expense as well as a commitment to actively managing your estate plan to ensure that all assets are transferred into it in a timely fashion.

A living will, sometimes called a health care proxy, is a document that deals with your wishes regarding your medical care. For example, you can use this document to state whether or not you are opposed to the use of artificial life support and if you wish to be an organ donor after your death. When you create a living will, you designate someone to have health care power of attorney, which allows them to carry out your requests if you become too ill to make decisions on your own behalf. The document should also include a provision allowing your agent to access your medical records under HIPAA rules.

Financial power of attorney is what allows someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. When you create this document, you can choose to provide financial power of attorney immediately, list a specific date it takes effect, or outline a set of circumstances in which you wish to give this power to the person you have named.

If desired, you can name the same person to serve as your health care proxy and your financial agent. If you decide to name two different people, it is important to make sure they can work together well since your financial agent will be responsible for paying the cost of your medical care and insurance coverage.

How Can We Help?

If you would like more information about the estate planning process, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our Pasadena family law lawyers will ensure that your interests are protected no matter what the future holds.