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Last month, many people were shocked and saddened to hear about the death of pop icon Prince. But those of us in the estate planning community were even more shocked to hear that he left no will behind to divide up his reported $100 million estate. Although the search for the will is ongoing and a will may still be found, it would not surprise me if it turns out that Prince, for all his savvy business reputation, did not, in fact, have a will.

In fact, it is quite common that individuals, who are organized, driven and successful, fail to not invest their time protecting their loved ones in the event of their death. And it’s completely understandable. Estate planning is a difficult topic to broach; for many people, developing an estate plan requires too much thinking about what could happen in the future and, even worse, too much thinking about what the world would look like after they are dead. It isn’t a pleasant line of thought and I don’t blame people for wanting to avoid it as much as possible.

But estate planning is too important to put off until tomorrow.

An estate plan, including a financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, a will and a revocable trust, if desired (and in a future post, I’ll explain why a revocable trust should be desired for most people), sets up vital infrastructure to manage your assets and property in the event of your death or incapacity. It lets you designate who should be making decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself.  It lets you express your desires as to end of life choices and other healthcare decisions. It lets you determine who should inherit your property after you die (and, in some cases, who should not). And, if you are a parent with young children, it lets you designate who should raise your children and who should manage their finances until they are old enough to take the reins. Simply put, creating an estate plan puts the power to make decisions about your future and your property into your hands, where it should stay.

And, perhaps most important, having an estate plan in place protects your assets from going to someone or somewhere you don’t like. In California, like most states, when someone dies intestate his or her property passes through a set scheme of intestate succession. The good news is that since California is a community property state, parts of a married person’s property, which is typically mostly if not completely community property, pass easily to his or her surviving partner.

On the other hand, if Laura, a single person with no children, no living parents, and three siblings, dies without a will, she would see her property (specifically, her priceless collection of Prince LPs) go to her siblings, including her estranged brother Ivan, who never cared for “Purple Rain.” That is not what Laura wanted for her beloved records. But, if she had an estate plan in place, Laura could protect what is important to her, by making her own decisions about how her property should be divided. The power is back in her hands, where it belongs.

Take care of your estate planning now and your loved ones will thank you later. We are here to help you protect your loved ones. All you need to do is give us a call at 925-750-7795.

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