Estate Planning Blog

Why Everyone in California Needs to Start Estate Planning ASAP

Estate planning is the process of arranging for the management and disposal of an individual’s assets in the event of their death or incapacitation. It involves creating legal documents such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney to ensure that an individual’s wishes are carried out and their assets are distributed to their beneficiaries according to their wishes. Despite its importance, many people fail to engage in estate planning, especially in California, where the process can be particularly complex due to the state’s unique laws.

Everyone in California, regardless of age or income level, should prioritize estate planning as soon as possible. This is because, without a proper plan, the state’s intestacy laws will dictate how their assets are distributed upon death, which may not align with their wishes. Additionally, California’s probate process can be lengthy and expensive, resulting in the depletion of assets intended for beneficiaries. Engaging in estate planning early can help individuals avoid these potential pitfalls and ensure their legacy is protected.

Secure Family Care through Proper Planning

Estate planning is not just for wealthy individuals in California but is an essential activity that everyone should consider. According to a 2023 Wills survey conducted by, only 34% of American adults have a will or living trust, and only one in four millennials have an estate plan even though they have children. Many Americans are still putting it off. 

In California, it is crucial to start estate planning early because of the state’s unique laws. The state’s probate fees can be high, with many processes being time-consuming and complicated, making the need for an estate plan even more essential. As per the state law, under intestacy laws, assets will be distributed according to the California Probate Code, meaning the state will decide who gets the assets. Therefore, it is crucial to plan one’s estate, even if they have little or no assets. One estate planning strategy Californians can employ is a living trust to avoid court-supervised probate proceedings. A living trust is a legal document that allows individuals to transfer their assets into the trust before their death, minimizing the distribution time and costs while maintaining privacy.

A Way to Reduce and Resolve Family Disputes

Estate planning is an effective way to prevent family disputes and ensure that a person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes after death. In California, disputes among family members can arise due to a lack of proper estate planning, leading to costly legal battles and emotional stress. According to a study, family disputes over estates can last for several years and cost an average of $300,000 in legal fees. Therefore, having an estate plan in place can help avoid such disputes and provide clarity to the beneficiaries about the decedent’s intentions.

One of the primary benefits of estate planning is the ability to control the distribution of assets after death. Without an estate plan, California law will determine how assets are distributed, which may not align with the decedent’s wishes. Estate planning allows a person to appoint an executor, establish a trust, and create a will that outlines how their assets should be distributed. For example, if a person wishes to leave a specific asset to a particular family member, they can do so through their estate plan. This prevents any misunderstandings and conflicts that may arise over the distribution of assets, thus reducing the risk of family disputes. In summary, estate planning is crucial for everyone in California to ensure that their wishes are respected and to prevent family disputes over assets.

It Prevents Being a Financial Burden on Your Loved Ones

Estate planning helps individuals avoid being a financial burden on their loved ones after their death. One of the main benefits of estate planning is that it ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, avoiding the possibility of your assets being dispersed through intestacy laws. This can help prevent disputes among family members and reduce the possibility of costly litigation.

Estate planning also helps protect your assets from various expenses, such as estate taxes, legal fees, and probate costs. According to the American Bar Association, probate costs can range from 3% to 7% of the estate’s value, which can add up to a significant amount if you have a large estate. Without proper planning, your loved ones may have to liquidate valuable assets or take on debt to cover these expenses. Estate planning can help ensure that your loved ones are not left with a financial burden after your passing and that your assets are distributed in a way that supports your goals and values.

Distributes Assets to Intended Beneficiaries

Estate planning is a vital process that helps individuals in California ensure that their assets are distributed to their intended beneficiaries after death. Without an estate plan, the distribution of assets may be left to the state’s intestacy laws, which may not align with the decedent’s wishes. In California, intestacy laws prioritize the decedent’s surviving spouse and children, and if none are present, the assets are distributed to the closest living relative. However, through estate planning, individuals can create a will or trust that outlines how their assets should be distributed, thus ensuring that their intended beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

Another benefit of estate planning for distributing assets to intended beneficiaries is the ability to minimize taxes and other expenses. Estate planning allows individuals to structure their assets in a way that reduces tax liability and other expenses that may arise during the distribution process. For example, establishing a trust can help reduce the estate tax burden, while also providing asset protection and control over the distribution process. In addition, estate planning can help avoid probate, which is a court-supervised process that can be costly and time-consuming. By avoiding probate, beneficiaries can receive their inheritance faster and with fewer expenses. Therefore, estate planning is crucial for individuals in California who want to ensure that their assets are distributed to their intended beneficiaries while minimizing tax liability and expenses.

It Gives You a Peaceful Mindset through Planning and Preparation

Estate planning is not only about protecting your assets and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of; it is also about providing peace of mind. Knowing that you have a comprehensive plan in place can reduce stress and anxiety, giving you and your loved ones a sense of security. Estate planning allows you to specify what should be done with your assets in case of your death or incapacity, including how to distribute your assets, manage healthcare decisions, and provide for your heirs.

In California, estate planning is especially important due to the state’s complex probate laws. Without proper planning, your estate may end up in probate court, leading to costly legal fees, public proceedings, and delays in distributing your assets. Estate planning can help alleviate these issues, providing you with the peace of mind you need to enjoy your life. By taking the time to plan and prepare, you can ensure that you and your loved ones are protected, and your legacy is preserved.

Our Final Take On Why Everyone in California Needs to Start Estate Planning ASAP

In conclusion, estate planning is not just for the wealthy but is crucial for everyone in California. Failing to plan an estate can lead to family disputes, lengthy legal battles, and costly expenses that can burden the beneficiaries. By starting estate planning as soon as possible, individuals can ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes, reduce the risk of family disputes, minimize tax liability, and avoid costly probate. The peace of mind that comes with having an estate plan in place is invaluable, and the benefits of proper estate planning cannot be overstated. So, don’t wait, start estate planning today to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Are You Worried About Your Estate Plan or Trust?

Are you worried about the potential minefield of setting up a trust and estate plan all by yourself? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Luckily, we’re here to help you navigate the ins and outs of estate planning in California.

With over 30 years of experience, Joel A. Harris has been protecting the estates of families throughout California. Whether you’re starting from scratch or need to update your current plan, we’ve got you covered.

Don’t leave the future of your estate to chance. Let us guide you through the process of setting up a trust and estate plan that will protect your assets and ensure a lasting legacy. Visit us online, in person, or give us a call at (925) 757-4605 to learn more about how we can help you with your estate planning needs in California.


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