Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are many misconceptions about estate planning, and as you are considering planning your estate you may be left with many questions. At Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, our attorneys are here to meet your goals, answer your questions and help you build a custom and effective estate plan.

Call our Lafayette office at 925-297-6179 or toll free at 888-355-4093 to set up an initial consultation, where we can answer all of your unique questions one-on-one. In the meantime, below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions on estate planning in California.

Isn't a last will and testament enough?

A will is the first step toward protecting your assets and your family after you die. A will, however, only helps you distribute your assets. There are many other situations that you should prepare for with an effective estate plan. Powers of attorney, for instance, gives a trusted agent decision-making power when you are no longer able to make your own decisions. Our lawyers can help you explore every tool available to ensure you are well-protected in the years to come.

What happens if I die without a will in California?

California has a specific set of guidelines as to how assets will be distributed after a loved one dies without a will. This is referred to as intestate succession, and is hardly tailored to meet your and your family's needs. You have no control over who gets what asset in this situation, which is why you should always have a will in place.

What happens if I can't make my own medical or financial decisions anymore?

Without powers of attorney, a living will and other crucial estate planning tools, your family will have to establish a conservatorship over you in order to make your medical and financial decisions on your behalf. Unfortunately, this process may cause turmoil within your family, and could result in an untrustworthy agent as your conservator. This is why we encourage you to plan appropriately for someone you trust to have this authority.

How can my family avoid probate when I pass away?

Certain assets can be passed outside of probate, avoiding some of the taxes and costs attributed with the probate process. For instance, you can add family members to your bank accounts so they pass over automatically after you die. You can take similar steps with your retirement assets, your home and other important assets. We can help you evaluate your unique situation to determine the best strategy to minimize the challenges of probate for your family.

How can I protect my assets in the long-term?

One of the biggest concerns people have is protecting their assets as they get older, so they can retain as much of their estate as possible for their loved ones. There are a range of options available, from trusts to Medicaid planning, to help you shield your assets from creditors, ex-spouses and other parties who may attempt to seize them. Speak to one of our attorneys to learn more.