Estate Planning 101

Statistics reveal that most Americans do not have an estate plan. In many cases, there is a misconception that estate planning is for the exceptionally wealthy. However, the truth is almost every person can benefit from an estate plan that specifies what should happen to your property if you die, or what steps should be taken if you become incapacitated or injured. As a brief overview, Estate Planning 101 is an introductory guide to the estate planning process. If you are interested in learning more, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys Von Rock Law today at (866) 720-0195 to visit with a compassionate and dedicated lawyer who can help you understand all of your legal rights and options.

Consider Creating an Estate Plan Early

Many people postpone estate planning because they believe that they have time to make these important legal and financial plans. Unfortunately, the failure to create an estate plan can often leave loved ones in a difficult position when a person passes away unexpectedly. It is never too early to consider estate planning. Yet, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) explains that 60% of American adults lack a living trust or will — in other words, they have no plan for their estate when they pass away.

Failing to create an estate plan may result in an estate entering probate, wherein a court may decide how to distribute assets instead of following a person’s wishes. If you are interested in ensuring that your property is distributed according to your wishes, and that your children are cared for in the way you decide following your death, it is essential to consider creating an estate plan.

Common Decisions Made During the Estate Planning Process

An experienced attorney from Von Rock Law can advise their clients regarding important areas of estate planning, including:

  • Determining who should hold decision-making power in the event of a medical emergency
  • Determining which parties will be beneficiaries to specific assets
  • Explaining and choosing which estate planning documents best protect both legal and financial assets (including but not limited to: Last Will and Testament (will, trust, durable power of attorney and more)
  • Memorializing who should receive specific assets (both physical and digital)
  • Maximizing tax benefits and minimizing taxes to the estate
  • Addressing all jointly owned property appropriately
  • Comprehensively and accurately valuing all assets  
  • Incorporating all Federal and California state law to ensure legal compliance

Depending on the needs of an individual, an estate planning attorney can also help ensure that all assets are protected, including hard to value assets, digital assets, cryptocurrency, pets, charitable giving and more.

Common Estate Planning Documents

Each estate plan will have different goals and objectives; however, the most common estate planning documents include the following:

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament (will) is a common legal document found within many estate plans. A will can accomplish the following:

  • Determine beneficiaries of assets
  • Appoint guardians for minor children
  • Provide instruction for the decedent’s funeral, burial, cremation, and other final wishes
  • Trigger the execution of a trust, which can distribute specific assets in a manner detailed by the will


Trusts can be created as an alternative to a will, or in addition to a will. There are several different types of trusts, including revocable and irrevocable trusts. There are even specific types of trusts that may be applicable to the individual needs of a person, such as a special needs trust or gun trust. Trusts allow the grantor to appoint a person, known as a trustee, to manage and disburse their assets either before they pass away, in the event of their death, or both. The trust document can be highly specific, explaining under what conditions the trustee gains management rights over the grantor’s assets.

The American Bar Association (ABA) explains that certain wills can create trusts, in which case the grantor’s passing would trigger the creation and execution of the trust. These kinds of will-triggered trusts are called testamentary trusts. Revocable living trusts allow the grantor can make changes to the terms of the trust or revoke the trust entirely before they pass away.

In all cases, trusts do not go through the probate process, which can be seen as an added benefit. If you are interested in learning about trusts, and if one might be right for your unique circumstance, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Von Rock Law to learn more.

Living Will

Estate planning documents do not only handle the distribution of assets and guardianship of children after a person’s death. A commonly used estate planning document is an advanced medical directive, also known as a living will. This important estate planning document can:

  • Appoint a specific person known as a Health Care Proxy (HCP) to make medical decisions if someone becomes incapacitated
  • Provide instructions for specific medical decisions, such as whether to keep the grantor of the will on life support
  • Provide other instructions related to medical care and your life, should you become unable to make these decisions on your own

A living will can protect loved ones from making difficult decisions on behalf of a family member, as matters of medical care can become challenging and complicated if family members disagree regarding health care options.

Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)

A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a truly powerful document, as it allows someone to make decisions on the grantor’s behalf even if the grantor is not severely injured or incapacitated. If a person executes a durable power of attorney, the party to whom they granted the power of attorney may have decision-making power right now or upon incapacity, as the grantor wishes.

Additional Estate Planning Documents

The list of estate planning documents above is not exhaustive. Some other types of estate planning documents include a letter of instruction, beneficiary designations, listing of important documents, and a provision for digital assets. Each estate plan should be created uniquely for the every person according to their financial and legal needs, as well as their wishes.

Should You DIY Your Estate Plan?

There are many inexpensive estate planning forms on the internet available for someone to attempt to create their own estate plan. However, you should exercise caution if you are considering creating and executing your own estate plan. A lawyer experienced in estate planning can address your questions, present concerns that you may not have considered, and complete the legal documents correctly that will govern your estate. In the end, mistakes in estate plans are typically not discovered until it is too late to make changes, after the executor’s death. Having a dedicated estate planning attorney help you through the estate-planning process may also provide peace of mind.

Call Von Rock Law Today to Visit with an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning 101 will not adequately cover all of the areas of estate planning, or answer all of your questions. Consider contacting the compassionate and experienced estate planning attorneys at Von Rock Law today at (866) 720-0195 to ensure your wishes are carried out following your death. Our legal team can help you develop a comprehensive estate plan, ensuring that your succession plans will unfold precisely as you intend.

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