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When Do I Need An Estate Plan?

By Nicole R. Plottel, Attorney at Law

Many people think an estate plan is only for the wealthy. Not so. In order to know when you need an estate plan, you must first understand its purpose. People often think an estate plan is solely intended to distribute assets at death, perhaps avoid a probate or even minimize estate tax exposure – all good issues involving your wealth and your death.

Equally important, and often overlooked, a good estate plan authorizes someone to properly manage your affairs while you are living regardless of the size of your estate. Executing appropriate durable powers of attorney, both for health care and financial decisions, regardless of whether you are married, single, wealthy, or not, is the most important component of a comprehensive estate plan and should be implemented now. I emphasize the word “appropriate” because not all durable powers of attorney are the same and may cause unintended consequences if done incorrectly or without sound legal advice.

wealth is just one factor in estate planning
Wealth is just one factor to consider when beginning an estate plan.

In considering when to implement an estate plan, understand that wealth is only one factor that affects the type of estate planning tools used, i.e. whether to use a trust or a will, etc. Other nonfinancial aspects of an estate plan address the care of minor children or the treatment of a spouse at your death. The birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, a death in the family, a special needs child, the purchase of a home, the receipt of an inheritance, or a diagnosis of an illness are all appropriate times to consider creating or amending an estate plan. Ultimately, the design of your estate plan will be dependent on the many factors unique to your situation.

Nicole R. Plottel, Certified Elder Law Attorney is Managing Partner of the Firm. She is also a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Ms. Plottel is further accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to represent and present veterans’ claims and focuses her practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Medi-Cal/Veteran’s benefits, Probate and Trust Administration. She is a longstanding member of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and also volunteers on the Incapacity Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Trust & Estates (TEXCOM) Section of the State Bar of California. Ms. Plottel actively serves the local community as a Board Member for the Enloe Hospital Foundation and the Gateway Science Museum Community Advisory Board, and the Chico Community Scholarship Association. She is also a longtime advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association.