Hi there, I’m California Family Trust Attorney Laura Meier. And I am also the owner of the Meier Law Firm in Newport Beach, California, along with my husband, Josh Meier. I want to talk to you today about what legal documents will likely be part of your estate plan. Here are some of the most important legal documents you should be aware of when you’re setting up your estate plan.
The first document that should be included in a comprehensive estate plan is a revocable living trust. Essentially, what that document does is say:
It really is the foundational core document that is going to be part of an estate plan in California. When you have that set up correctly, it usually avoids that long and expensive court process known as probate, which is a whole different discussion.
Along with a revocable living trust, you’re also likely going to want what’s called a pour-over will. A pour-over will is essentially a document that says, “hey, in case I forgot to connect certain assets to my trust, I want anything additional I own out there to go to my trust.” We don’t want the will to be relied on in lieu of you actually connecting your assets to your trust, but it is an important document to have along with the trust as a safety net.
This is also typically where, if you’re a parent of minor children, you could name guardians for them. If you have a beloved pet, you can even name a guardian for your dog or your cat in there. And it also addresses your burial or cremation wishes.
The next document that you’re going to need is a durable financial power of attorney. This document is a legal document where you’re giving power to somebody else to manage all of your finances if you should become incapacitated.
It’s usually a long document that lists many different powers, that you’re giving to someone to act on your behalf if you can’t handle your affairs yourself. So this is a document people rely on if their loved one is suffering from memory loss or dementia, or maybe they’re in a serious accident, they can’t process things, stuff like that.
The next legal document that you’re going to need as part of your estate plan is an advanced health care directive. And sometimes that’s all one form, the medical form, and sometimes it’s three. At our firm, it’s three
The way these three documents, whether they’re independent or all in one place, typically do is authorize somebody to make your medical decisions for you in a medical emergency situation if you can’t make those decisions for yourself.
This also is where you would express your end-of-life wishes — like if you don’t want to be kept on machines if you know there’s no chance you’re going to recover. And it also authorizes who doctors are allowed to speak with about your medical information.
These are what I would say are the main documents that you should be aware of when working on your estate plan. There are several other legal documents that can go into an estate plan, depending on how complex you make it or how comprehensive it is. And so you’re going to want to make sure that your attorney is going through all of the documents that you’re signing, and making sure that everything is properly connected to your trust.
We know how overwhelming it is to prepare for and navigate difficult life events. Schedule a planning session and together we can determine the best way to set up your estate plan in order to avoid probate and protect what you care about most.