Living in the Bay Area can sometimes give us a skewed view of our financial situation. Many of us know people who have much more wealth than we do. But if you own a home, earn a salary typical of the region, or run your own company, you have significant assets that need to be protected.
We never know when something bad might happen to us. Whatever your age or health, you should have a plan that will allow for a smooth transition of your estate to your heirs. If you have young children, it’s all the more vital that you provide for their future.
“Probate” is one of those Latin words that lawyers love to use. Basically it means of “to prove.” When you leave a will, someone has to prove to a court that the will is valid. But it’s possible to sidestep probate by putting your estate into a living trust.
A trust avoids probate, and saves your loved ones both time and money. If it's set up properly, it should also avoid the need for having to appoint a "conservator" (someone to look after you) if you become disabled. Additionally, a living trust provides more flexibility in providing for your minor children.
Your estate plan can include specific instructions for how your assets are passed to your heirs. For example, you may want the money held by a third party until your children (or grandchildren, or other young heir) reaches a certain age.
If you divorce, remarry, have children, move out of California, or make any of several other changes, you’ll want to revisit your plan. Any time you encounter any event that changes the nature of your estate, you should update your instructions for what happens to it.