California Estate Planning Checklist 2024

Lynard C. Hinojosa

Estate planning is essential to ensuring a secure future for yourself and your loved ones. Though it can be difficult for many people to confront, creating a long-term legacy in which you can feel confident is necessary. Your plan will also provide you with medical security. Estate planning is particularly needed for those with numerous valuable assets or who have many future benefactors in mind, but it is useful no matter the size of your estate. Estate planning can be done by anyone who wishes their loved ones to avoid the long and drawn-out process of probate after their death.

Estate planning is also complicated to understand. That’s why at Hinojosa & Forer, LLP, we’ve gathered the necessary information to begin your estate planning journey. Working with our highly experienced estate planning attorneys in Los Angeles, CA, will be sure you create legally enforceable documents which cover all your needs.

Information To Prepare Before Meeting With an Attorney

There are several documents and pieces of information you should have on hand before you talk with an attorney. These will be the documents you need to create for your estate plan. Your estate refers to everything you own, so it is important to ensure you have all the necessary documentation pertaining to your items. That way, your attorney can determine the most appropriate course of action to protect your estate. Documents you should gather include the following:

  • Financial statements, including checking, savings, and brokerage account statements.
  • The deed to your home. This document should include the home’s value.
  • The value of any other real estate you own.
  • The value of expensive assets such as cars and other vehicles, jewelry, artwork, and other assets.
  • Recent bank and investment account statements.
  • Previous estate planning documents, if they exist.
  • Divorce, prenuptial, and postnuptial agreements.
  • Copies of retirement plans and retirement account statements.
  • Business agreements.
  • Copies of your life insurance policy. These should include their value and their benefits.
  • A list of liabilities, including mortgages, credit lines, and other forms of debt.
  • Contact information of your doctors and family members.

Other information you want to know includes a rough outline for your estate plan, the individuals you may want to list as trustee and executor, and any questions for your attorney. Though not all this information may be necessary, it can be helpful to have it on hand.

What Documents Are in an Estate Plan

Estate planning in California refers to a number of estate planning documents, though each individual’s estate plan will likely have different requirements. It’s important to find an attorney who will be able to create flexible estate plans according to your needs. The basic elements of an estate plan include the following:

  • A Will – This allows you to list your assets and determine where and to whom they will be distributed. Here, you can list your beneficiaries. Unlike a trust, a will must still go through probate court, and the judge determines the validity of the will. Probate is a long process, but if many of your assets are in a trust and a smaller amount is in your will, it won’t take as long as it would without a trust.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – This legal document allows you to assign a loved one, family member, or professional to handle financial and legal decisions. If you die or become incapacitated, this person will manage taxes, real estate, and other transactions.
  • Advance Healthcare Directive – Here, you state what healthcare decisions should be made at the end of your life, including what treatments and doctors you want if you are unable to request care.
  • A Living Trust – Your trust distributes assets to your beneficiaries and does not need to go through probate. This will protect your assets from litigation fees and other things that may lessen your assets before your loved ones receive them. Your beneficiaries can then receive assets right after your death rather than needing to deal with the probate process during their grief.

FAQs About Estate Planning, California

What Are the Basic Estate Planning Documents in California?

Most California estate plans include a living trust, a living will, power of attorney, and an advanced healthcare directive. It may also include a pour-over will. An attorney can help you create legally enforceable documents and ensure your assets go to the right beneficiaries. Your estate plan must be made while you’re alive.

Are Estate Planning Fees Tax Deductible in California?

Estate plan fees are no longer tax deductible in California. Certain estate planning fees may be tax deductible again in the future but are not right now. Previously, fees relating to the maintenance and preservation of income in state plans were deductible, while fees related to property and guardianship changes only were not deductible. Planning for business succession under business law remains tax deductible as long as it’s not a personal estate plan.

What Is the Average Cost of an Estate Plan in California?

Depending on which estate planning documents you need, an estate plan may range anywhere from $300 for a living will or between $3,000 and $6,000 for a complete estate plan. The cost of an estate planning attorney will depend on how good your attorney is, how complex your estate plan is, and the number and value of assets you’re putting into your estate plan. If you have a small number of assets or are naming a single beneficiary, your estate plan will be less expensive than if you are naming multiple beneficiaries for numerous assets.

What Are the Five Components of Estate Planning?

An estate plan should be made up of the following:

  1. Wills and trusts to distribute assets and name guardians for children under 18.
  2. A durable power of attorney to handle financial and legal matters.
  3. A medical power of attorney to handle medical matters for you when you are unable to.
  4. An advanced healthcare directive and living will that specifies your wishes for medical care.
  5. Designation of beneficiaries who receive the distributed assets from your will and trust.

Hinojosa & Forer LLP Can Help With Your Estate Planning

The attorneys at Hinojosa & Forer LLP are highly experienced and know the complexities of estate planning law. We can assist you in creating a strong estate plan that protects your assets and avoids common legal mistakes. Contact our team today to see how we can support you in creating and maintaining your estate plan.




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