Proactive Estate Planning To Protect Your Decisions
People often think about estate planning in terms of post-death distribution. In fact, a very important purpose of estate planning is the ability to maintain control of assets in the event of incapacity during one’s lifetime.
Creating an estate plan can help you avoid a conservatorship if you include documents necessary to name a successor decision-maker without the need for court intervention in the event of incapacity.
Naming a third party to make decisions in your place is something to think through carefully. Elders may feel pressured to name an adult child even if it’s not certain the child will act only in the parent’s best interest. Some people prefer to name a professional licensed fiduciary as agent to avoid these concerns.
Estate planning in California may be comprised of some or all of the following documents, depending on your goals:
A trust can be useful during incapacity because you can direct the use of your assets through a successor trustee you name in advance. At your death your assets pass to named beneficiaries privately without the need for a court-supervised probate process.
A trust may not be necessary for everyone, in which case you may choose a simple will to give instructions to be carried out after death. For example, you may direct the distribution of your assets to beneficiaries you name, and state your choice of guardians for your minor children.
Powers Of Attorney
Estate planning should also include “powers of attorney” for finance and health care and an advance health care directive. When these documents are in place, and trustworthy agents named to represent you, there is a greater likelihood you can avoid a conservatorship if you were to become incapacitated.