If you are like most people, you probably feel overwhelmed about creating an estate plan. However, it may be possible to create a plan that meets your needs and conforms to California law in just a few simple steps.
Think about who you want to inherit your assets
In most cases, money inside of a bank or retirement account will pass to a named beneficiary. A life insurance policy, a home and other assets might also pass to the person listed on a beneficiary designation form. It is important to understand that the language in such a document generally trumps any instructions left in your will. It is also important to review your beneficiary designations regularly to ensure that the right person inherits your money or other possessions.
Make sure that important documents are easy to find
Ideally, documents such as bank statements, brokerage statements or the deed to your home will be kept where your executor can find them. If you put important papers in a safe deposit box, make sure that your spouse is named as one of its owners. Otherwise, your executor may need to ask a judge for permission to open it, which might delay the process of settling your affairs after you pass. The passwords to access a computer, smartphone or online accounts should be listed on a piece of paper that is placed in the safe deposit box or another safe location.
Working with an estate planning attorney may be an ideal way to figure out what you want your plan to do and how to meet those objectives. If you already have a will, trust or other estate plan documents in place, legal counsel can check to see if any changes or updates need to be made.