For many families, the winter holidays are one of the few times when the entire family gets to see each other in one place. While quality time and relaxation are the primary focus of these gatherings, they also provide an opportunity to discuss important family concerns, such as estate planning decisions. This becomes even more important as our parents get older, as all families should have a thorough estate plan that establishes what will happen to their assets when they pass away. However, it can be difficult to know how to start this conversation. If you are wondering how to discuss estate planning over the holidays, you can learn more by contacting the experienced San Francisco estate planning lawyers of Von Rock Law at (866) 720-0195.
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that help ensure your home, other real estate properties, vehicles, investments, bank accounts, investments, and other assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. Estate planning also dictates who will be in charge of managing your finances and healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated and cannot make these decisions on your own.
Without an estate plan, these decisions and the distribution of your assets can become extremely complicated. Loved ones may have trouble receiving the assets that were left to them in the estate plan and may need to make financial decisions without key information. A well-structured estate plan can also help minimize taxes and ensure that more assets are passed on to loved ones. When someone who does not have an estate plan passes away, state laws will dictate what happens with their assets and who will receive custody of their children, if applicable.
Even if we understand the importance of developing a comprehensive estate plan, getting the conversation started can sometimes be difficult. Consider following these tips to start a dialogue about estate planning with family members over the holidays:
- Do research ahead of time – Come prepared for the conversation with an understanding of how an estate plan should be constructed. It is important to be aware of the different documents necessary for an estate plan and how the parents should structure their estate plan based on their assets, needs, and preferences.
- Pick the right setting – Have the conversation in a comfortable setting at a time when everyone is relaxed and in a good mood. This will make it easier to voice your concerns and have a productive conversation.
- Include the whole family – The parents and all adult children should be included in the conversation, if possible. An estate plan affects everyone in the family, so everyone should have the chance to voice their thoughts on the matter.
- Discuss estate planning early and often – Some families may wait until a major event happens to begin the conversation, but it is best to start this dialogue as soon as possible. No one wants to be without an estate plan if something unexpected happens. This is also not a one-time conversation and should be discussed at regular intervals, as estate plans often need to be updated.
You can learn more about how to discuss estate planning over the holidays, including starting the conversation, by contacting the San Francisco estate planning lawyers at Von Rock Law.
For families who do not already have an estate plan, the holiday season is a great time to create one for the first time. While the specific components of an estate plan will vary depending on the needs of the estate owners, a few documents should be included in most estate plans.
A last will and testament (will) is one of the foundational building blocks of all estate plans. We all need a will to dictate how our assets should be distributed. Those who die without a will are considered intestate, meaning that the government will distribute their assets according to state law, rather than based on the needs and desires of the deceased. The will should list all assets and who should receive them (also known as the beneficiaries).
While many people may think of an estate plan as something that only goes into effect when the estate owner dies, it is also important to account for what happens if you become incapacitated. A health care directive provides a designated person with the right to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself.
A durable power of attorney can be used for both legal and financial decisions. If the estate owner becomes incapacitated and cannot handle their own legal or financial affairs, the person named in the power of attorney can do so on their behalf.
A revocable living trust allows the estate owner to transfer assets into a trust for their beneficiaries. With just a will, the beneficiaries will need to go through the probate court process to receive the assets left to them. Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process with significant delays in the distribution of assets. Living trusts allow beneficiaries to bypass probate and receive the assets left to them much more quickly. According to California Courts, property in living trusts can be transferred outside of court.
While the assets are transferred to the trust while the owner is still alive, they maintain control and in some cases may manage these assets until they pass away.
Creating an estate plan is not a one-time event. Estate plans should be viewed as living documents and must be updated regularly to account for major life and financial changes. During the holidays, consider gathering the family to review the estate plan and find areas in need of an update. Most financial professionals recommend reviewing your estate plan at least every 3-5 years.
If you have questions related to how to discuss estate planning over the holidays, or another estate planning matter, Von Rock Law is here to help. Our team of dedicated San Francisco estate planning lawyers can provide guidance on how to start this conversation, how to create an estate plan, how to update an existing one, and all other estate planning concerns. Contact us today at (866) 720-0195 to learn more.