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Estate Planning 101: Understanding the Basics

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of organizing and preparing for the distribution of your assets after your death. It also includes providing authorization for others to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own medical or financial decisions, and it provides for the care of any minor children you may have should you become incapacitated or pass away.  It’s an important step in protecting you and your loved ones and ensuring that your wishes are carried out. While the thought of estate planning may seem overwhelming, understanding the basics can make the process less daunting.

The first step in estate planning is to inventory your assets. This includes everything you own, from your home and car to your bank accounts and investments. It’s important to make a list of all your assets and their current value. This will help you understand the scope of your estate and what needs to be included in your plan.

The second step is determining who you trust to manage your assets or care for your minor children if you become incapacitated or pass away. If you have difficulty identifying one or more persons to manage things on behalf of you, your children, or your estate, an experienced estate planning attorney can discuss options with you.

If your assets are not enough to trigger probate (in California, probate is required if you own real estate or, as of the time of publication of this blog, the total value of your assets exceeds $184,500), the next step is to create a will. A will is a legal document that lays out how you want your assets to be distributed after your death.  Different types of Wills are required, depending upon whether you also have a revocable living trust.

If your assets include real estate or would be sufficient to trigger probate, an important aspect of estate planning is creating a revocable living trust (RLT). A RLT is a legal document that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to a trust during your lifetime. This allows your assets to bypass probate and avoid court involvement in the administration of your estate.  Having a properly implemented RLT can save considerable time and expense for your heirs when your estate is administered.  It has the added benefit of helping provide for you if you become incapacitated, and for providing for minor children if you become incapacitated or pass away.

If you have minor children, preparing a guardianship nomination document can help make your wishes known as to who you wish the court to appoint as a guardian to raise your children and manage assets left for them from your estate.

Creating a Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive are additional essential elements of estate planning. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated, while an Advance Health Care Directive allows you to express your wishes for medical treatment in the event that you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

It’s also important to review your beneficiaries designations.  These are important for accounts such as retirement accounts, life insurance, bank accounts and other assets that have a designated beneficiary.

In conclusion, estate planning is an important step in protecting your loved ones, ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death, and providing for the well-being of you and your minor children should you become incapacitated. Understanding the basics of estate planning, such as creating a will, revocable living trust, durable power of attorney, advance health care directive, and reviewing your beneficiaries designations, can make the process less daunting. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your plan is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

We invite you to contact the Law Office of Carol A. Fauerbach at (916) 597-1305 to discuss options for developing a customized estate plan that meets the unique needs of you and your family.


The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact the Law Office of Carol A. Fauerbach at (916) 597-1305, and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.