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Westminster Law Blog

Estate planning with long-term interests in mind

Planning for the future is a prudent venture at every stage in life, regardless of age, wealth and health status. Estate planning requires looking to the future and laying the groundwork to ensure that the distribution of assets, health care and other matters are handled according to the wishes of a California adult. This means it is necessary to think long-term throughout the planning process.

Even with an estate plan, checking in regularly is an essential step. As life changes, so should estate plans, especially after significant and life-altering events such as marriage, the birth of a child, new grandchildren, divorce or the death of a beneficiary. These types of plans are fluid as the needs and objectives will not remain static for the duration of a person's life.

Estate planning that works at every stage of life

Young adults in California can benefit from thinking about what they need for the future. Even the young and healthy can benefit from estate planning, starting with thinking about what they may need in case of an emergency. Having certain plans and protections in places can provide confidence and peace of mind in case of an unexpected situation. 

College students may not have many assets, but they still may want to have control over what will happen to their body if they are not able to speak for themselves. Through a power of attorney for health care, they can decide what type of medical treatment they may want in case of incapacitation. Through a power of attorney for finances, they can name someone to make money-related decisions in case they cannot make decisions.

It's important for your business to get agreements in writing

Even in a close-knit community, you need to protect your small business. Making verbal agreements may seem like the neighborly thing to do, but it could backfire on you and cost you the business you worked so hard to build.

Verbal contracts are not always enforceable in court. If you end up in a dispute with the other party, you may have no legal recourse if you can't work out a resolution on your own.

Young adults also have estate planning needs

College students are full of excitement about the future, and typically this does not include considering what future financial and legal needs they may have long-term. Young people are not likely to see the need to think about estate planning, but this could be a crucial step for many California young adults. Thinking ahead can give them peace of mind, as well as provide certainty to family members in case of a contingency. 

If an adult is sick or injured to the point where he or she cannot make decisions, it often falls on the family members to make these choices. Sometimes there are disputes regarding who gets to choose and what choices should be made. With a will, advance medical directive and other documents, a college student can decide for him or herself what will happen with medical decisions and personal property.

Where should someone start with the estate planning process?

Certain life events may cause a California adult to start thinking about the future and the need to have certain protections and plans in place. Estate planning can be a daunting task, especially for someone who is young and healthy, but this process is beneficial for those of all income levels and ages. Thinking about the future can allow a person to have more control over what happens to his or her stuff down the road and plan for the care of others in the future.

Things like the birth of a child, marriage, a divorce, starting a business and other important life events can prompt a person to put certain plans in place. One of the first steps of this process is identifying exactly what an adult needs to protect his or her family. It may be designating a guardian for minor children, outlining preferred medical care in case of incapacitation or establishing a trust for charitable giving. Each estate plan should be uniquely tailored to the goals, objectives and finances of the individual. 

Estate planning is an important step for new parents

The birth of a child is an exciting time for a California family, and there are certain things the parents will want to do to protect their baby's future. One of these things is making sure they have both legal and financial protections in place in case of the unexpected. Estate planning is a smart way to make sure the future is secure for their new baby and other members of the family.

It's never easy to consider what will happen if a parent dies or becomes disabled at some point in the future, but it's prudent to plan for these possibilities. Without certain plans in place, state laws will determine what happens to an estate, and it can be uncertain regarding who will care for the child. In an estate plan, a parent can name who they want to care for their child and set aside money for his or her care through a trust.

Estate planning with charitable giving in mind

Planning for the future is an important step for every California adult. Estate planning is specific to the needs and objectives of the individual, which may include the desire to designate a portion of the estate for charitable giving. While drafting a will is a basic step in many estate plans, there are better and more effective ways to give through an estate after death. There are specific estate planning tools that can help accomplish that goal.

It is possible to give to charities by including provisions in an estate plan that directly transfer valuable stocks to a charity. This can happen during a stockholder's lifetime, and this will provide certain tax incentives for charitable giving. However, selling stock and then giving the proceeds to charity could result in tax penalties. Another option is to donate through a charitable organization directly from an IRA.

Are you keeping proper records for your cash transactions?

Running any type of business involves a lot of recordkeeping. Having financial documents, transaction receipts and other information relating to the incoming and outgoing funds of the business can be immensely useful in the event that a dispute arises. While most people use debit or credit cards for their purchases these days, you may have a California business that is heavily cash-based.

Cash is still an immensely useful way to buy products or services, and you may appreciate clients or customers who pay in cash and use cash as often as you can yourself. However, it is important that you maintain proper cash records for your transactions.

A different approach to family law matters sets millennials apart

Different generations do things in different ways, and millennials are no exception. Unlike their parents and grandparents before them, this generation is more likely to cohabitate first, wait longer to marry and sign prenuptial agreements before walking down the aisle. In fact, their different approach to family law matters has resulted in a lower divorce rate for their age demographic.

Some California couples may only assume that a prenup is really only necessary in situations where a significant amount of wealth has already been amassed or there are valuable assets at stake. Millennials are not necessarily wealthy, but they often enter relationships with a lot of debt, such as from student loans. For this reason, many see the benefit in drafting these contracts to address how they will share marital debt in case of a divorce.

What does a lower divorce rate really mean?

For many years, the rate of marriages that ended was about 50%, but that is no longer the case. The rate of divorce is now around 39%, and there are a few specific reasons why this number is dropping. Part of the reason behind a lower divorce rate is a changing perspective and approach to marriage in California and across the country.

One reason for this may be the expense associated with a divorce. It can be costly to end a marriage, and both parties often have to adjust to new lifestyle expectations and monthly income. It's possible that financial concerns could cause a couple to delay a divorce or decide to put off the process indefinitely. Other reasons that divorce is not happening as often is a shift in the way younger couples view marriage and cohabitation.


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