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Steps to Protecting your Property and Yourself after Death

  • Create a Will

A will is a legal document that outlines where your wealth and property will go upon your passing. This document alone is not sufficient to protect all of your assets, but it is perhaps the most important document in doing so. 

Without a will, the rules of California interstate succession will govern how all of your assets are distributed. A will is paramount to ensuring that you are the one choosing where your assets will go, not the government. 

Unfortunately, it is usually not preferable to have a will alone since wills but be admitted to probate in California, which is an incredibly long and complex process that many choose to avoid. The way of doing so is to combine the will with another document, known as a living trust.

  • Create a Living Trust

Creating a trust whilst one is still alive is a common way to get around the dreaded process of probate. In a living trust, the owner of the assets typically designated themselves as the initial trustee who owns all the assets for the benefit of specified beneficiaries. Upon their death, the agreement of the trust designates who will take over as the trustee and how the assets will be distributed to beneficiaries. 

In addition to avoiding probate, most living trusts also allow the owner to change or even revoke the trust if they’d like to while they are still alive, meaning that the property owner doesn’t actually give up control over the property until their death. 

  • Gain Power of Attorney

Power of attorney grants another individual (typically an attorney) with the power to make financial decisions regarding your assets on your behalf. People often opt of “durable” power attorney, which mean that your representative can make these decisions even after you pass away. 

There are several reasons why seeking power of attorney is preferable. The first is that it is always a good idea in general to get legal help from an individual who has a thorough understanding of the laws regarding wills and trusts. Another reason is that if you are not in a condition where you can make a sound decision about your assets, or you pass away, it is best to have someone who knows the law and your interests be able to make complex decisions for you.

  • Gain Healthcare Power of Attorney

Rather than giving someone power to make decisions regarding finances, healthcare power of attorney gives someone power to make decisions regarding your health and medical treatment if you are not able to. Many choose to gain healthcare power of attorney in case they have a terminal illness or find themselves in a state in which they cannot adequately make decisions regarding their own health. It helps people ensure they received their preferred treatment when they are alive, and that their physical body (i.e. organs) are protected upon death.

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