Estate Planning Documents You Must Have

Why You Should Start Your Estate Planning Early in Life

Estate planning can feel like a topic only “rich people” think about or something that only “older people” do when they are ready to retire. However, estate planning is a topic that should be broached the second you get married, have children, or build up any sort of assets. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you may have, because protecting your future should be one of the most important things you can do as an adult.

4 Essential Documents for a Sound Estate Plan in California

1) Living Trust or Will

According to most estate planning stats, 55 percent of Americans do NOT have a will (what an alarming number). Do you know what happens if a person passes away without one? The probate courts will end up deciding on who gets any assets left behind, instead of following what that person’s final wishes would have been (since there was no written will, how could the courts ever know?). One of the biggest benefits of having a written will is that the document names an executor who will take charge of your assets and help speed up the process of assets distribution to family members and friends. Whether you need a living trust or a will or BOTH is determined at your consultation with your estate planning attorney

2) Financial Durable Power of Attorney

This may be the single most important document in your estate plan. A durable power of attorney allows a person to appoint an “agent” to act on their financial behalf in case they become incapacitated and cannot make their own decisions. An agent can write checks, pay bills, and manage property or other assets. Without a durable power of attorney, a person would have to go through the courts in other to manage a loved one’s affairs in case they were injured and unable to make sounds choices on their own.

3) Medical Durable Power of Attorney or Healthcare Directive

A sister document to the one mentioned above is a medical power of attorney or health-care proxy. The document enables a person to select an agent to make medical decisions on their behalf (similar to a durable power of attorney). Without a health-care proxy, a person’s family or other loved ones cannot make medical decisions, such as taking a person off of life support, without seeking the legal authority of the courts. When you begin to set up powers of attorney documents, be sure to speak with family members and friends about being an agent, and choose the person in your life best equipped to handle the responsibility.

4) Advance Health-care Directive

This deals with a person’s end-of-life care and specifies in writing how that care should play out. The document goes over topics like resuscitation (if a person stops breathing or their heart stops beating) and keeping a person alive through artificial respiration or feeding. While these topics can be somber, taking the time to talk about them with family members is the best way to make sure all your final wishes will be met in the case of an emergency or live threatening accident.


When you are ready to begin exploring your estate planning options, protect your health, assets, and wishes for future care, give our expert attorneys at Elder Law Services a call for a FREE consultation. We specialize in estate and Medi-Cal planning, probate, wills, and living trusts. Gives us a call today at (800) 403-6078 and we’ll have one of our expert estate planning attorneys walk you through the process of getting started! We look forward to speaking with you soon.

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Related Questions
  • What documents are necessary for estate planning?
  • How do I prepare for estate planning?
  • What is the first step in estate planning?
  • Why is estate planning so important?
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