As a Newport Beach will and trust attorney I hear the same things over and over….

I don’t have an “estate.”

I have more debt than assets…. or

The only thing I own is my home.

As you’ve probably guessed, these are excuses that people make every day for not having an estate plan.

They assume estate planning is only about money and therefore it does not apply in their situation.

Keep in mind though that no matter what your financial situation may be, there are decisions that will need to be made if you become incapacitated or pass away. And if you don’t leave behind detailed instructions about the type of medical care you want or what you want people to do with your things, you will be putting those you love in the position of being a mind-reader.

Your family will be forced to figure out what you would have wanted and then deal with the consequences of unhappy family members who may disagree with them.

Do you really want to cause this type of stress for your loved ones at a time when they are already upset and mourning? I doubt it.

Now I realize thinking about these things is not easy or fun, but approaching your estate plan in an organized manner may help. Here are a few things to consider when planning your estate:

  1. Talk to close family members and let them know how you would like to handle the dispersal of your assets and sentimental items. Also, talk to them about the type of medical care you would like to receive if you become incapacitated. Chances are, if everyone knows your plans ahead of time, there will be fewer arguments and a lot less stress.
  2. Prepare a list of all of your assets including your home, your financial accounts, insurance policies and any personal possessions.
  3. Make a list of everyone that you would like to be a beneficiary of your estate. You may also want to include organizations that are meaningful to you.
  4. Plan for how you would like your pets cared for if something should happen to you.
  5. Make a list of passwords, PIN numbers and other codes that someone might need.
  6. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can offer advice about how to arrange your estate so that the person you put in charge of your financial and medical decisions will have the fewest complications possible.

These steps alone will go a long way in reducing the stress that your loved ones may experience. That to me is reason enough to do an estate plan, no matter how many assets or how much money you may have.

Of course if you still have questions about how to get started or you would like some more direction about planning out your estate, please feel free to call our office at (949) 260-1400 for assistance.