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Important Estate Planning Terms to Know

Nov. 10, 2021

Under California law, if a person passes away without a will, his or her estate will be transferred to the surviving spouse. In the event there is no surviving spouse, the estate is transferred to the deceased person’s children. If there is no surviving spouse and there are no children, who receives a deceased person’s property and other assets? Such a question is commonly asked by many Californians considering estate planning.

Estate planning is a process that not many people want to deal with at any age. A first step to confronting the need for estate planning is understanding basic terms that can be intimidating. Any person wishing to begin the estate planning process should consider working with an estate planning attorney.

John L. Shaw, Attorney at Law has more than four decades of experience helping clients with the estate planning process. Serving clients in Temple City, Pasadena, Arcadia, Rosemead, and Alhambra, California, John L. Shaw, Attorney at Law is available to provide you with a thorough evaluation of your situation and discuss potential estate planning options.

Why Estate Planning Is Important

Estate planning is the best way to ensure a person’s property and other assets are passed on to intended beneficiaries, which are typically surviving spouses, surviving children, and any other family members or friends who were close with the deceased individual.

Estate planning does not just include a last will and testament, which may be contested in a California probate court. Estate planning also includes the creation of trusts and other tools to ensure property and other assets can be passed on without issue and perhaps without probate.

Important Estate Planning Terms to Know

Understanding the basic and most common terms associated with estate planning can help individuals approach the process without as many questions. The terms below provide a starting point to formulating an estate plan.

Probate: Probate is the court process of validating a will, distributing a deceased person’s assets (either pursuant to a will or pursuant to California law if no will exists), paying a deceased person’s debts, and handling any other financial affairs associated with a deceased person’s estate.

Intestate: Intestate is the term used to describe a person who passes away without a will.

Will: A will, also termed a last will and testament, is a legal document used to outline a person’s wishes concerning how property will be distributed upon death.

Trust: A trust is an estate planning tool whereby property is placed in the hands of one person for the benefit of another. Trust property may include tangible assets and/or money.

Beneficiary: A beneficiary is a person who inherits property in accordance with a will or trust.

Executor: An executor is a person identified in a will as the person to manage the deceased person’s estate. The executor is appointed by the court to carry out all wishes of the deceased person. In the event no will exists, a court will appoint a “personal representative,” also termed an administrator, in accordance with California law.

Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document that gives one person the authority to act on behalf of another person. Powers of attorney may be limited in terms of what decisions or actions the appointed person can take. For example, medical powers of attorney would only allow a designated person to make medical decisions. Some powers of attorney may allow a designated person to make all decisions on behalf of another, including financial decisions. Powers of attorney exist while a person is alive and are typically created to ensure a person’s wishes are carried out in the event he or she is incapacitated and unable to make decisions on his/her own.

Advance Healthcare Directive: An advance healthcare directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document that identifies how a person wishes to receive medical treatment if he or she is unable to make healthcare decisions on his or her own. Examples of decisions outlined in an advance healthcare directive include, among others, whether to be resuscitated, whether to be given other life-saving care (such as remaining on a ventilator), and whether to donate organs.

Guardianship: A guardianship is a legal arrangement in which one person is appointed to act on behalf of another person who is unable to act on his or her own behalf. A guardianship is often established to represent the rights of minor children or an incapacitated person.

Conservatorship: A conservatorship is a legal arrangement (similar to guardianship) in which a person is appointed to manage another person’s financial affairs, such as minor children or an incapacitated person.

Hiring an Experienced California Estate Planning Attorney

While a person can draft estate planning documents without the help of an attorney, doing so can create more problems and even cost more money, especially in California. Choosing to seek the guidance of an estate planning attorney can help to limit costs by formulating a plan that meets a client’s needs and goals. John L. Shaw, Attorney at Law possesses the experience, resources, and advocacy skills needed for proper estate planning.

Estate Planning Attorney in Temple City, California

To explore your estate planning options, consider reaching out to John L. Shaw, Attorney at Law today. Serving clients in Temple City, Pasadena, Arcadia, Rosemead, and Alhambra, California, John L. Shaw, Attorney at Law strives to meet the needs of all individuals looking for a way to protect their wishes and limit the hassle for their loved ones after passing. Call today for an initial consultation to discuss the estate planning tools that may be right for you.