From the desk of Darlynn Morgan, Orange County Probate Lawyer

Last week, I shared the top 10 life changes that warrant a review of your current Orange County Estate Plan.  If you missed that blog post, you can read it here.

Naturally, that article brought up a lot of questions from people who believed meeting with an Orange County probate lawyer (or even completing these documents through an online site such as Legal Zoom) was a one-time ordeal that would hold up forever.

Unfortunately that is NOT the case… and probably something your lawyer should have explained to you before leaving the office.

As an Orange County probate lawyer, I can’t stress enough how much your will and other estate planning documents must be maintained and updated as your life (and the law) changes through the years.

So to help you determine whether your estate planning is truly up to date (or even sufficient to protect you should something tragic occur), I’ve created the following checklist for you to thoughtfully review at your convenience:


1. Have you prepared a will or trust?

Without proactive planning, you are relying on the California legislature to determine how your assets pass, to whom, and when they pass.  This may have potentially undesired results.

2.  If you have done a will or a trust, has it been reviewed in the last 3 years?

Have there been any family or financial changes since your plan was last reviewed? There have been major legal changes over the past 10 years.  Keeping your plan current is vital to achieving your goals.

3.  Are all of your heirs over the age of 18 and financially responsible?

Under California law, children inherit property outright at age 18. With trust planning, we can leave your child their inheritance in a manner that is protected from divorce & creditors.

4.  Are you absolutely certain that your assets will not be subject to probate?

We encourage you to review each of your assets and identify how it is going to avoid probate.  Assets titled in joint tenancy, assets owned in the name of a trust and assets that pass by beneficiary designation will avoid probate.  Everything else is subject to probate, which is a costly and time-consuming process.

5.  Do you have assets titled jointly with a child or someone else?

Holding assets jointly with someone other than a spouse is quite common but has some potentially devastating consequences of which most people are unaware.  This must be carefully considered in order to achieve your goals.

6.  Does your current plan provide your heirs with asset protection & divorce protection?

The most common means of providing for heirs is with outright distributions.  By doing so, however, the inheritance becomes subject to the creditors of your heirs.

7.  Is this your first marriage? Are you in a non-traditional relationship?

Second or subsequent marriages present unique planning issues, particularly if there are children from a prior marriage.  If you are in a blended family or non-traditional relationship proper planning is critical to prevent undesired results.

8.  Does your current plan protect you in the case of an incapacity?

Today more than ever you need protections in place for the event of an incapacity. A current Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and HIPAA Release are essential.  Also, do your current documents adequately specify how an incapacity will be determined?


8.  Does your current plan include detailed instructions for distributing Family Heirlooms?


 This is one of the biggest areas that is cause for family dispute and something that should be clearly addressed in your estate planning.

So how did you do on the quiz?


If you answered “no” or you feel unsure about any of the above questions, you will benefit from a review of your estate plan.  If something happened to you tomorrow, your family would definitely experience unwanted and unintended results from the documentation you currently have in place.

And to help ensure your review from an Orange County probate lawyer is as simple and painless as possible, simply mention this blog post to receive our Family Wealth Planning Session ($750 value) at no charge.  We do limit these in-depth review session to 10 per month, so be sure to call (949) 260-1400 to immediately secure your spot!