Sunday, June 28, 2009

Have You Made Your Estate Plan Yet?

We often do not think about preparing our estate plan until something reminds us of it. Sometimes we are reminded when we hear of the passing of celebrities, such as the recent deaths of Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays. Sometimes we are reminded by the illness or passing of a loved one. Other times, articles like this give us a reminder. No matter what brings this to our attention, we should prepare our estate plan early and while we are in good mental and physical health, to avoid complications for our loved ones.

Estate planning tools such as wills and living trusts allow the property owner to plan who will benefit from their estate, which properties or dollar amounts are given to each beneficiary, and who will be in charge of administring the estate after they pass on. Moreover, proper estate planining can minimize the amount of estate taxes that have to be paid after the person dies, and can eliminate the need to go through a probate. These will maximize the amount of properties that will be passed to the beneficiaries. Since no one can predict how many years they will live, it is best to prepare one's estate plan sooner rather than later.

Sometimes, the beneficiaries may challenge a person's will or trust, claiming the deceased was not in proper mental state when he or she executed the estate plan. For this reason, it is best to prepare and execute the estate plan in an earlier age, rather than in an older age. Moreover, a complete estate planning package often includes advance health care directives, which are instructions for how a person wishes to deal with situations where person is seriously ill. Such instruments need to be prepare and executed while the person is in good health and able to properly state their wishes.

Estate planning is a broad topic which cannot be properly summarized in a few lines. This weblog is intended as general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

Robin Mashal is a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal, LLP, and can be reached at (310) 286-2000.

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