California Estate Planning Checklist [Updated 2024]

21Mar, 24

Understanding all the legalities surrounding estate planning can often feel like a daunting task. There seems to be so much involved, and you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the accessible information. It is important that you adhere to a California estate planning checklist so you don’t miss any of the necessary information.

Luckily, an experienced estate planning lawyer can make this process easier. By offering compassionate guidance and knowledgeable assistance, they are intent on making sure you feel secure and prepared for the future.

What Is an Estate Plan?

More complex than just a will, an estate plan involves multiple ways to secure your estate’s future. Tools you should include are wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. If you would like your estate to avoid probate, you’ll need to create a trust as well. It is possible for estate plans to include both a power of attorney for your financial holdings and a healthcare power of attorney in case you are found incapacitated.

You may be thinking you can wait to start thinking about an estate plan until you’re terminally ill, elderly, or disabled. In all honesty, the ideal time is now. If you are an individual with a stable income, a roof over your head, married, or with children, it is vital that you have a plan put in place in case anything unfortunate were to occur.

What Should I Include in My Estate Plan?

Your estate will be built out of documents that pertain to your specific plan. These can be as detailed as you wish.

  • Wills: Formally known as a “last will and testament,” a will is a legal document describing how your assets will be distributed after your passing. The will should also name the executor of your estate or the person who is legally bound to allocate your assets to your beneficiaries. Without a will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with intestate succession laws.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: With a durable power of attorney, you can give a designated person the authority to handle your financial and legal matters if you die or become incapacitated.
  • Advance Directive: This document allows you to name the person whom you would like to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • Trusts: A trust is a contract that allows the stewardship of property by another person, known as a trustee. A trust can consist of money, physical assets such as property, or anything else of value in your estate. In most cases, trusts are put into place so your beneficiaries, be they individuals or institutions such as charities, can access these assets at a certain point in the future.

If your beneficiaries include minor children who may not yet be ready to receive a full inheritance, trusts offer a way for assets to be held until those individuals come of age. It could also be useful to create a trust if you’d like to keep distribution private and prevent your family from needing to go through the probate process.

A living trust is one that is created to hold assets whether you are still alive or after your death. A testamentary trust is the kind laid out in your will, so it only comes into play after your passing.

What to Look for in an Attorney

Sitting down to establish an estate plan is not an easy task to take on. It is prudent to look for guidance in these legal matters, which can often leave you feeling more confused than anything else.

An experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you draft a will and a trust and create a comprehensive estate plan. With almost two decades of experience, the team at Sakamoto & Ruelas, APC, is here to fight for your rights and protections and make sure all assets included in your estate are safe and secure.


Q: What Are the Seven Steps in the Estate Planning Process?

A: Following is a concise list of seven steps to take to ensure you don’t miss anything in the estate planning process:

  • Take Inventory of Your Assets
  • List Members of Your Family
  • Establish Important Legal Directives
  • Name Your Beneficiaries
  • Research State Law
  • Weigh Your Options for Professional Assistance
  • Prepare to Revisit Your Plan

Q: How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in California?

A: An estate worth more than $166,250 does not qualify to be processed with a simple transfer of funds and will need to go through the formal proceedings of probate court. This process sees that all assets are correctly given to those beneficiaries designated in either the will or the trust. It also handles all payments of either estate taxes or outstanding debt held by the estate. You may, however, bypass probate court by setting up a trust.

Q: What Are the Three Main Priorities You Want to Ensure with Your Estate Plan?

A: The three main priorities that you may want to ensure with your estate plan are to provide security for your loved ones or provisions to your favorite charities, make sure your legacy is protected and all property holdings are passed down to your beneficiaries, and prevent any disputes between the parties involved.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Estate Planning and a Will?

A: The difference between estate planning and a will is that an estate plan is a roadmap outlining what will happen to your assets while you are still alive, as well as following your death.

A will, however, is a specific document that directs how and to whom your assets will go after your death and who will become the guardian of any children. A will also names the executor in charge of carrying out your will’s specifications.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney Today

Estate planning is no easy feat, but the more thorough your plan, the more likely it will be adhered to by the executors of your estate. The team at Sakamoto & Ruelas, APC, is here to help you throughout every step of the process.

We are glad to assist you in creating a seamless, concise, and indisputable estate plan that will protect your loved ones and your hard-won legacy for generations to come. Contact an estate planning lawyer today and let us guide you through the process so you can rest assured of the security of your estate.

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