If you already have a will drafted, you may think that your estate plan is complete. Or instead, you may have started wondering whether you need more than a will. There are a few reasons you might need more estate planning, and a few other estate planning tools you can consider.
Reasons You Might Need More than a Will
Do you have a dependent child or disabled relative who you support? Do you want to save your relatives time and trouble after you pass away? Are you worried about large estate taxes because you have many valuable assets? Have you heard about the high cost of probating a will? Are you a non-U.S. resident living in California? These are all reasons that you might need more than a will in your estate plan.
Wills dispose of all assets that you own as of the date you pass away. You can specify in a will exactly who will receive which items of property, down to the dollar bill. You cannot set up a payment plan or monthly distributions in a will, as you may want to do for a dependent or another relative who is not responsible with money. Nor can you avoid your will being probated if you have assets over a certain amount. Probate often is extremely costly in California. Wills do not optimize tax consequences and may not address international estate planning issues.
In other words, many people need more than wills to address their individual circumstances. If you created your will a long time ago or used a form from the Internet, you may not know whether your will addresses your circumstances. To find out, you should consult an experienced estate planning attorney.
Other Estate Planning Tools Besides Wills
In California, you have many available estate planning tools besides wills. These include:
- Revocable trust
- Irrevocable trust
- Advance health care directive
- Power of attorney
- Life insurance and life insurance trust
- Special needs trust
- Pet trust
- Charitable trust
Again, whether you need one of these estate planning tools depends on your circumstances, including the assets you own, your family structure, your goals for family support and charitable giving, and your values.
When you talk to an estate planning lawyer about expanding your estate plan, he or she will need to review your existing will. In some cases, you can keep using the same will. In other cases, you may need a new will, whether because your old will is out of date with your goals or because your old will does not meet California legal requirements. Check with a lawyer to be sure.
Do you have a will but think you need more estate planning? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience and her certification as a California estate planning and probate specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 325-8276.