ESTATE PLANNING: Basic Information

Why Should You Have a Basic Estate Plan in Place?

by: John B. Palley, Attorney

A week does not go by that I am not confronted with the person who claims they do not need to do any estate planning. The thing that differentiates an estate planning lawyer from the stereotypical lawyer is we are here to plan before problems arise, not jump in to salvage a bad situation. Additionally, we work hard to carry out your wishes so that upon your death things will happen exactly as you desire! We work hard to help people avoid family fights, either during life or upon their death.

Common is the person who tells me they don’t need a will because they have no money. I ask, “do you have any children?” Typically they do have at least one child. I explain that some of the ugliest fights they can imagine happen in the courtroom when the husband’s family and the wife’s family are battling for custody of the child. Hasn’t the child gone through enough, by having lost their parents? A will can very simply provide for who should take care of the children. The parents can come to an agreement, and have both their wills provide for the same people to get custody if they are to both die.

Once in a while I get the person who assures me they do not need any estate planning because they are single, with no children, and do not have any substantial assets. I ask them if they want to remain on life support should they be in a permanent coma or persistent vegetative state. Generally, they tell me they wouldn’t, but that their parents will take care of that. California has established case law which says your wishes for medical treatment, when you are unable to make decisions, has to be in writing with specific language. Maybe they don’t really need a traditional will, but they do need a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will! Also, consider the need for updating your estate plan when life events dictate!

A basic estate plan of a simple Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs and a Living Will can be executed for very reasonable fees from estate planning attorneys throughout California. Additional services, such as living trusts, life insurance trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts and other advanced techniques can also be had, when the situation is appropriate, and often for very reasonable fees. Do make your estate plan, because it’s a lot nicer for your wishes to be carried out and to have family fighting eliminated, rather than the opposite!