It is just as important to provide for your pets in your estate plan. Similar to an estate plan
for minor children, you want to designate a caregiver for your four legged family members, as well as designate funds to allow the
provide for their care. This can be written into a trust as a lump sum amount or a formula based on the age of your pet and their
expectancy. Bottom line, you want to ensure that your four legged family members are as well cared for as your loved ones.
Having a comprehensive advance health care directive will take on a key role in your estate plan.
You should have in writing your
preferences on the type of care you wish to receive and who will make those decisions, including end of life decisions.
Tax planning will take on a key role in your estate planning. This may include determining if
gifting during your life time would make
sense, and which type of assets have better tax consequences when left to a beneficiary. If you are newly divorced – one of your
is to ensure that your ex spouse will be removed from making any financial or health care decision for you, and your assets are
designated to go to new beneficiaries other than your ex spouse.
You want to ensure that you have designated the right individuals, whether close family members,
friends or other professionals, to make
key financial and health decisions during your incapacity and/or death.
You are likely concerned about making a fair distribution to your children from your prior
marriage, as well as taking care of your
current spouse after you are gone. A well drafted estate plan will help you implement your wishes, and consider your overall assets to
make an equitable and fair distribution to all your loved ones.
You should know that California law doesn’t recognize “Common Law” marriage, even if you have been
living together for many years, and/or
have children with your partner. In essence, under the California law, you and your cohabitating partner are strangers and will not be
able to inherit from one another. However, you can opt out of the California law by creating a comprehensive estate plan that will
out your wishes and allow your partner to inherit your assets.
Whether they are your sibling, parent or child, it is important for you to know that they cannot
be direct beneficiaries of your estate plan. If you gift or pass on your assets to a loved one with special needs, their need based
government benefits will be terminated. To avoid this, you want to create a special needs trust for your loved one, to ensure that
they still continue to qualify for their current government benefits, and
instead use the inheritance to subsidize what their government benefits don’t provide for them.
You want to ensure that your business is properly addressed in your estate plan, whether you
operate as a one-man show or have employees. Your estate plan should identify a key person in your operation who can take over your
business and continue to run it after your passing, or liquidate and close your business, while maximizing the return for your
It is imperative to plan for a distribution of your interest to avoid family conflict after your
passing. This is especially true when you have some family members who are involved in the family business, while others are not. You
should discuss various options that can be used to equalize family members who are not involved in the business, while passing down
the family business to those who are active participants.
It is yet another important reason to plan out the distribution of your business interest in your
estate plan. If you and your partner don’t have the appropriate documents in place, then upon the passing of one of the partners, the
deceased partner’s estate (e.g. spouse, children, heirs), will inherit the deceased partner’s interest in the business. The surviving
partner will be forced to run his/her business with the deceased partner’s spouse or children, who know nothing about your business.
If you have a sound estate plan, these issues will be properly addressed and ensure a smooth transition if this situation was to
If you are a licensed professional (e.g. lawyer, physician, accountant or architect) and have
your own professional practice, it is important for you to designate another professional in your field who can take over your
practice in case of your incapacity or passing. This is especially true if your spouse is not licensed professional in the same field.
The professional you designate can either purchase your practice from your estate or run your practice until it is sold, thus
maximizing the value of what you have built for your loved ones.
if you have purchased an investment property or are looking to buy one, it is important for you
to protect your other assets from any potential lawsuits or claims. This is a frequent issue if you have renters who can sue you for
not properly maintaining the premises which you rent to them. One of the ways to protect yourself and your assets is to own your
rental property through a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which can help insulate the rental property from your other assets in case
of a lawsuit.
You want to properly designate who can benefit from your intellectual property (copyrights,
trademarks and patents) in your estate.
Whether you are a musician, writer, artist, photographer, engineer or inventor, you want your estate plan
to properly designate who can receive your royalties and manage your intellectual property after your passing.
It is important that your estate planning attorney reviews your pre-nuptual (or post-nuptual)
agreement, prior to drafting your estate plan. This ensures that your estate distribution does not conflict with what you agreed to in
the pre-nup, and your assets are distributed to the proper parties after your passing.
You should know that your inheritance, even if you are married, is considered your separate
property. However, if you take your inheritance and “commingle” it by depositing funds into a joint account or adding the name of a
to your inherited real estate, you have converted the property to a joint asset. Thus, in case of a divorce, your spouse is treated as
of the property and entitled to half of your inheritance. It is imperative to work with an attorney to properly plan for your
even consider creating a separate property trust for the inherited assets, which will be separate and apart from a joint trust you may
have with your spouse.
It is vital that you create an estate plan
that addresses your wishes. You can even specify what causes your funds could be used for within a particular organization. Since many
charitable organizations are tax exempt, your attorney can guide you on how to best make a distribution which will provide the most
tax benefit to
your estate, as well as the charity who is receiving your funds.
If you live in California, but own real estate in another state, it is
especially important for you to create an estate plan and address how all your real estate holdings will be distributed after your
Typically, you will create a trust in CA, and then transfer all your real estate holdings, wherever they are located, into your trust.
This will ensure
that your estate will not be probated in multiple states, and be distributed in an expeditious and cost effective way.
It is important that your US estate planning documents refer to those assets. The United States
has no jurisdiction over the distribution of assets in different countries after your death, since each country has its set of laws
regarding inheritance. However, your US based estate plan should specifically mention that you have assets in another country and that
you will designate in a valid document according to the laws of the foreign country, how your foreign assets should be distributed.
You additionally want to mention that your will in the US will not invalidate your other international estate planning documents that
you have created. Working with an attorney will ensure that your assets are properly distributed, no matter where they are located.