Document with headline "Living and estate planning"

Yes, You do Have an Estate. Here's How to Protect It.

"I don't actually have an estate, so I don't need an estate plan."

It's a popular belief that unless you have millions or bajillions of dollars, you don't have an estate. It's common for people to say, "Estate Planning isn't something I need; I don't have an estate."

What Does My Estate Consist Of?

But you actually do have an estate - and here is why. In the United States, your estate consists of everything you own when you pass away, including your home, your personal property inside your home, bank accounts, investments, retirement plans and business interests. Most people own at least some or all of those types of assets, but even if you own just one, the laws that we abide by consider that to be your estate.

Who Determines My Estate if I Don't?

"Ok. I do have an estate then. So now what? I guess I'm supposed to do something about it now?"

If you pass away without an estate plan - a will or living trust - California law will determine how most of your property is distributed. But here's the catch - it may not be how you want. Based on your unique situation, your property may go to family members you don't want receiving it, or it might go to family members who aren't old enough and wouldn't be served well by receiving your property now - if they're just turning 18, for example. Perhaps worst of all, when the courts are the ones figuring out what to do with your property from scratch it costs an extreme amount of money. You can make sure none of this happens by creating your estate plan now. In your estate plan you will indicate exactly how you want your property treated, you'll keep important decisions out of the courts, support the people that mean the most to you, and save time, money and stress for you and your loved ones.