Deborah Parker has helped people of all ages and income levels decide what is needed to help prepare their estate plans, whether they need a simple will or more complex trust documents.

I’m often asked, ‘Who needs estate planning?’
That’s an easy question: Everyone!

Whether you are the CEO of a multinational company or live on a fixed income, whether you have already retired or are just starting out in your career, whether you have a houseful of kids or it’s just you, there is some facet of estate planning that is important for you today.

For example, a living trust is a good estate planning option for many people, but it is not the perfect fit for everyone. A trust is designed to help ensure that your assets are managed according to your wishes both during and after your lifetime. Trusts can also help you avoid probate, a time-consuming and potentially expensive court process that might make things harder for your beneficiaries. With revocable living trusts, you can control your assets during your lifetime, you can change the terms of the trust if you change your mind, and you can completely revoke the trust if you decide that you no longer want it. Additionally, when the assets in your trust are being distributed, they will not be public record as they would be during the probate process. However, since a trust is not court supervised, there will be no one watching over the person you name as trustee when your estate is distributed to your beneficiaries.

On the other hand, a will is the smart option for some people. If you have a smaller estate, if you are just starting out, or if you don't own a home, a will might be best for you. A lengthy probate can be avoided and simpler procedures are normally used if your estate is worth less than $100,000. There are a number of other reasons that a will might be the preferred option, including the fact that there would be the transparency of a court process while your assets are being distributed to your beneficiaries.

If you want to be sure that a non-profit receives something from your estate, you can include that bequest in either a will or a trust. Or you might choose to create a charitable remainder trust to benefit a non-profit organization that you support. Additionally, charitable remainder trusts might have some tax advantages for you.

Estate planning also includes other documents that can be very important during your lifetime if you are ever incapacitated for any reason.

For example, a Power of Attorney is a document that gives someone the authority to make financial management decisions for you in case you are not able to do so. In this way you can be sure that someone you trust will be able to handle your financial affairs for you.

Additionally, an advance health care directive is an incredibly important document that allows someone to transmit your important health care decisions to your doctors for you if you can no longer do so yourself. This document can describe your wishes for life-saving measures and other health care issues in detail, so the burden of those decisions will not be on your loved ones during that stressful time.

There are many critical issues and decisions to make while planning your estate, so it is important for you to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to help you through the process. Wills and trusts are legal documents and should be prepared by an attorney that you trust. To find a qualified attorney, please contact the Ventura County Bar Association or The State Bar of California.

Contact us to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. Call our Camarillo office at (805).909-0289.