Estate planning is for everyone, not just wealthy people
While you are alive: You might need someone to help make sure your rent, mortgage, or other bills get paid. You might need someone to talk to your doctors when you are temporarily too sick to do so. Both of these are normal situations that can happen in our lives. An advance health care directive and power of attorney document can help you prepare for the unexpected as part of an estate plan.
Do you have kids? You might want to make sure someone is entrusted with speaking to the school or helping with health decisions for your child if you are temporarily unavailable. These are also estate planning decisions and you can create documents to address this.
Do you own a home? A living trust is part of an estate plan. It helps you make sure the home goes to the people you want after your death without them going to probate court and waiting for a judge to decide who gets your home. The fastest that can happen in California is typically 9 months, and that length of time can create problems for your loved ones. A living trust helps loved ones bypass this long waiting period as well as the expense of probate court.
Do you have a bank account? Maybe you have personal belongings you want to be sure get to a loved one. Making an estate plan helps you make sure your belongings go where you want.
For most of these forms to be valid, you must sign in front of either a notary or 2 witnesses who are not involved in your estate.
A notary is an official who checks the identification of a person signing a document. They check your identification, make a written record of the signing, and give you a certificate (called an acknowledgement). It costs about $15.00 to have a signature notarized.
Many shipping or mailing stores have notaries. You can also find one online.
Once you have your forms and documents done, make sure that the person you choose to manage your finances, care for you, or manage your property if you die:
• Has given you permission to nominate them
- Has a copy of your planning documents
- Has a way to access your accounts and other important information you may have on your computer, at your home, or in a safety deposit box
- Knows where you keep your important papers
It can be helpful to make sure your loved ones know of your wishes and have copies of your papers.