To be sure your estate planning documents are in order, here is a checklist of things you might review:
Be sure you have a will or, better yet, a revocable living trust which directs where your property is to go when you die. A trust is usually the best estate planning instrument when you own property in the San Diego having a total value in excess of the $166,250 probate threshold. With such property titled in a trust, this will ensure a probate administration (with its high costs) can thereby be avoided.
In this connection, if you have a trust this is a good time to review the provisions whereby you have designated your trustee(s) and ensure your beneficiary designations and distributions are up to date. If you have a will, you should review whom you have nominated as your executor(s) and those heirs you desire to inherit your assets. Relationships change and those we have asked to serve in the capacity as trustee(s) and/or executor(s) may no longer be the right choice.
It can occur that legal ownership of certain assets, such as bank accounts or real property, have never been transferred into a trust. This actual transfer of title is essential, as merely indicating such desire in your trust instrument is not sufficient to effect such transfer. This is a good time to ensure title to the above assets has actually been transferred into your Trust.
Keep in mind that certain types of investments are better left outside of a trust due to tax or distribution consequences. Be sure the beneficiaries you desire to receive such assets upon your death as life insurance proceeds, IRAs, annuities, and pension benefits, are correctly listed in the account holder’s records. We have seen many mistakes in this regard.
Be sure you have a current Advance Health Care Directive, under which you have appointed an agent to make emergency health care decisions on your behalf. There should also be a provision stating your wish as to withholding or retaining life support should you be in critical condition and expected to die. With this in mind, you should also have a current general power of attorney under which you have appointed an agent to assist you with your financial affairs should the need ever arise.
We face many challenges today. Take the time to ensure your estate plan is in order. At McEntyre & von der Lieth, PC, our expertise is here to assist you with this process.
The above are generalizations only and should not be taken as legal advice for the reader’s particular situation.