California Estate Planning

Family or Individual Trusts

A recovable living trust is an agreement between the “Trustor” and the “Trustee” to hold the trust assets for the beneficiary. The Trustor is the person who sets up a trust and the Trustee manages it. When you set up a trust, you are both the Trustor and Trustee, unless you dictate otherwise. During your lifetime, you are also the beneficiary. By correctly maintaining your assets in a trust you can avoid probate in California.


When you create an estate plan, your will is commonly referred to as a “pour-over” will. It ensures that assets that were not previously transferred into your Trust, be added at the time of your death. This is important, because any assets that are not included in your Trust can only be distributed through probate. Your will also designates the guardian of any minor child.

Advanced Health Care Directive

The Advance Health Care Directive is the most important document for any person of any age to have. The Advance Health Care Directive is the document that gives certain named agents the power to make medical decisions, sign consents and/or releases with hospitals and/or doctors. This is also the document that controls end-of-life decisions. It is important to use this document to designate the person in your life that is willing and able to carry out your important health care desires. For example, if you do not wish to be kept alive on life support, you must dictate this in your Advance Health Care Directive.

In addition to the Advance Health Care Directive, all persons should execute HIPAA Authorizations and Waivers. This is a stand-alone document that authorizes your health care providers to release otherwise confidential information to whomever you designate. If you want close friends or loved one access to your health care information when you are ill, you must provide them with authority.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney gives a named agent the power to deal with any non-trust assets in the event of your incapacity. This might include paying bills, maintaining banks accounts, or keeping your business running. A General Power of Authority may also designate very broad powers such as the power to dispose of, sell, convey and encumber your real and personal property. You may not wish to assign such broad powers, in which case an attorney is necessary to ensure that your Power of Attorney only provides limited authority to your designated agent.

Final Disposition

Planning for one’s death can be hard. So, there is no better time to plan than when you are feeling healthy. Even if you are not ready to invest in a plot of land or buy a headstone, you may already have ideas of how you would like your remains to be dealt with. Do you want to be cremated? or Buried? Putting these desires into writing is the only way to ensure they are carried out.

10.0Tara Renee Burd

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