Cerritos Estate Planning Lawyer

Cerritos Estate Planning Lawyer
Cerritos Estate Planning Lawyer

Cerritos Estate Planning Attorney

Regardless of your age or life circumstances, creating a plan for the end of your life is an important step to take. Some may incorrectly believe that estate planning is only for wealthy individuals, but it is actually helpful for everyone to develop a plan for the end of their lives. Although it may seem daunting to start this process, developing an estate plan can relieve anxiety for both you and your loved ones. Creating an estate plan can help ensure your final wishes are carried out and eliminate any guesswork on the part of your loved ones.

If you pass without an estate plan, or have an invalid estate plan, your property and assets will generally be distributed according to California law. This is typically based on their relationship with you, but it can become a complicated process that takes an exorbitantly long time. Working with a skilled estate attorney in Cerritos, CA can ensure your wishes are carried out. Sakamoto & Ruelas, APC, has over 20 years of experience in estate planning and property law, so we leverage this knowledge to create a legally binding estate plan that clearly establishes your wishes.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the legal process of determining your intentions for how your property should be handled upon your death and creating routes to ensure they are carried out. Estate planning, however, is not limited to only asset and property planning. It can also involve decisions about your health care during your life and what happens to your body after your death. Settlement of taxes and other financial situations, such as avoiding probate, can be handled during estate planning as well. In addition, creating an estate plan can allow you to name a guardian for your minor children or pets and designate methods to ensure your estate goes to their care.

Ultimately, estate planning is a flexible process that can be used to lay out your intentions while you are living and after your death. Speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can provide valuable insight into how an estate plan can ensure your wishes are handled, both in life and in death.

Parts of an Estate Plan

An estate plan is personalized and unique to the person who created it. However, there are certain types of documents that will generally be found in an estate plan:

  • Last Will and Testament
    This document is one way to communicate how a person’s assets and property should be distributed upon their death. This document must typically go through the probate process to ensure its validity and that it is properly carried out.
  • Trust
    There are multiple types of trusts to handle a multitude of issues, but their core purpose is to create a relationship where the trust’s creator, the trustor, gives themselves or another person, the trustee, the right to temporarily hold the title of assets or property for the benefit of those meant to inherit the trust’s property, the beneficiaries.
  • Living Will or Healthcare Directive
    A living will is a directive that states a person’s wishes for their end-of-life treatment if they have a terminal illness. For example, it could delineate if and when you would like to be taken off life support.
  • Medical Power of Attorney
    There may be a time when you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. If you do not have a designated person, these choices will typically be made by your next of kin. In some instances, this may not be the right person to make the decisions that most align with your wishes. Therefore, creating a medical POA allows you to choose the person who knows what choices you would make on your behalf.
  • Beneficiary Forms
    Many types of assets, such as IRAs, life insurance, and 401(k) plans, allow you to declare a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. This helps these important assets avoid the probate process and allows them to be paid directly to your chosen loved one.
  • Life Insurance Policy
    Your loved ones may struggle financially after your death, especially if any part of your estate is caught in the lengthy probate court process. A life insurance policy can help your loved ones pay the mortgage or rent, replace lost income, or cover end-of-life expenses like a funeral.

The components of your estate plan can also change as your life changes. Because estate plans are meant to clarify your wishes, many components can be altered if your wishes change. For example, the birth of a child, the death of a beneficiary, or the disinheriting of a family member are all important changes that should be accounted for in your estate plan. An estate planning lawyer can ensure any amendments are legally binding and unlikely to be successfully challenged.

Benefits of Creating an Estate Plan

The benefits of establishing a valid estate plan should not be ignored or understated:

  • Reduce the Stress on Your Loved Ones
    One of the primary benefits of estate planning is making the situation easier for your loved ones. If you become incapacitated or pass away, this plan will outline your wishes and create a plan for your family to follow. This will prevent your loved ones from being forced to guess your preferred decisions while dealing with the emotions of your loss.
  • Ensure Your Property Is Distributed Accordingly
    Without an estate plan that clearly establishes your wishes for how your estate should be divided, the state will step in during probate and dictate the division of your assets. The state’s protocols for this division may not align with your wishes, but there will be little recourse for your loved ones to fight the state’s decision.
  • Provide for Your Family
    Developing a comprehensive estate plan is a strong way to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after your death. Not only will it ensure your assets are left to your family, but it can also help you set up sources of income for your family that you may have previously been unaware of. It can also help with actions like ensuring a loved one with a disability is cared for or creating a college fund for a child.
  • Plan for Incapacity
    If you become physically or mentally incapacitated, an estate plan can dictate who should step in to handle your affairs while you are unable to do so. The person making your medical and financial decisions should be designated if you want a greater guarantee that your wishes will be followed.

The benefits of estate planning far outweigh any negatives. Even the financial cost of working with an attorney can be easily offset by the emotional and financial benefits that your loved ones will experience after the tragedy of your death. There are also the benefits you will reap if you become temporarily incapacitated.

FAQs About Cerritos, CA  Estate Planning Laws

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

A will is a legal document that dictates the division of your property and assets after your death. A will must go through probate court. A trust is a legal arrangement where the trust creator appoints someone to manage the property held within the trust and then distribute the property after the creator’s death. Property held within a trust will avoid probate and generally be distributed faster.

What Happens If You Die Without an Estate Plan in Cerritos, California?

If someone dies without a will or other type of estate plan, they are said to have died intestate, and California’s rules of intestate succession will determine how the property and assets are to be distributed. Your estate will pass to your heirs as dictated by this law, which follows this progression: your surviving spouse, your children and grandchildren, your parents, etc., until even your most distant relatives are reached.

Can I Contribute to a Charity With an Estate Plan?

Estate plans are intentionally flexible, leaving significant room to create a plan that satisfies your wishes. In addition to leaving part of your estate to loved ones, you are also able to specify causes or charities that you would like to contribute to upon your death. The person responsible for handling your estate must follow your guidelines and ensure each beneficiary receives the property you specified.

What Questions Should I Ask When Searching for an Estate Planning Attorney?

There are multiple questions you can ask to help you choose the right attorney for your situation. You will want to inquire about how much of their practice is devoted to estate planning services as well as how much experience they have in planning their clients’ estates. It can also be helpful to ask about their communication styles and how frequently they can be reached in the event you have a question or concern.

Estate Planning in Cerritos, California

Any mistakes in your estate plan can negate the entire package, resulting in a document that can be successfully challenged. Working with adept attorneys like those at Sakamoto & Ruelas, APC, can allow you to create an impenetrable estate plan that clearly establishes your wishes. One of the most efficient ways to help your family if you become incapacitated or pass away is to have already developed a sound estate plan. Contact our office today to schedule an estate planning consultation to begin this process.

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Sakamoto & Ruelas, APC

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Cerritos Office
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18115 Valley View Avenue
Suite 201
Cerritos, CA 90703
Phone: (714) 994-4900

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27281 Las Ramblas
Suite 200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
Phone: (714) 994-4900