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Estate Planning Checklist for California Residents

Estate planning is like paying tax; it's not nice to contemplate but it is necessary. It's also more than just your last will and testament and appointing a guardian for your minor children. A lot goes into creating a comprehensive estate plan and the process can get complicated. Consulting an Orange County estate planning attorney is the best way to work through every element in compliance with regulations.

A Quick Checklist – Things to Consider Before You Do Your Estate Planning

When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. This means that before you get down to the finer points of estate planning, you should gather all the information that you're likely to need throughout the process.

The question is; what information is necessary? We've compiled a list to remind you of the elements you need to consider.


Before you can distribute your assets you need to know what assets you own. Your inventory list should include tangible and intangible assets, like your house, household contents, current vehicles, the available balance of bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and investment accounts.

Don't worry if you've left anything out, your Orange County estate planning lawyer will go through the list with you to see if there's more to add.


These are the people you want to leave your estate assets to. It's entirely up to you how many people you put on the list. If you're unmarried without children, you can leave your entire estate to the best friends you've had since you were 12. If you're married and have children, you can leave the bulk of your estate to your spouse and a portion to your friends.


The executor manages your estate and ensures that, as far as possible, all your wishes in your last will and testament are carried out. You must trust the person implicitly and be confident that they are responsible enough to manage all the duties.

Pick at least one backup estate executor (successor executor) because you never know what the future holds. Your first choice might become incapacitated and you need someone who can step up and fill the role.


Imagine the worst-case scenario and then think about what would you like your family to do. Must they do everything possible, including human trials? Would you rather have a Do Not Resuscitate order? Keep going until you think you've covered all the basic scenarios.

You need a healthcare agent or Medical Power of Attorney (Advance Health Care Directive) you can trust to make the difficult decisions and fulfill your wishes. Make a list of people you think fit the bill.


You need a financial agent or a Durable Power of Attorney who will manage your finances while you're incapacitated. It's a great responsibility because they might have to make manage your taxes and mortgage, so choose wisely.

As with your healthcare POA, you need a list of choices in case your first choice opts out.


A variety of estate taxes come into play when you die. All of them have implications for your beneficiaries. An experienced estate planning attorney in Orange County knows how tax laws affect proper estate planning, so you'll get excellent advice about your options.

Steps to Basic Estate Planning

With all this information in hand, you and your Orange County estate planning lawyer will start taking steps to complete the process.

1. Create Your Last Will and Testament

Your will clearly state how you want your assets to be distributed. For example, Suzi gets the vintage motorbike and Natalie gets the vintage book collection. It also, very importantly, declares your children's legal guardians. It also names your executor, who will be responsible for administering the will and seeing it through probate, if necessary.

2. Create a Living Trust

These days, a living trust isn't an optional addition to a will. A living trust lies at the heart of your estate plan. Living trusts store assets that will one day go to specific beneficiaries, such as stepchildren. They're also available for the trustor (you) to use while still alive.

Their primary benefit is that they don't go through probate. Your beneficiaries don't have to wait years before they receive their share of your state. It's there immediately to use according to the terms you established.

For example, all assets are to be held in the trust and only the interest shared equally between your children for 15 years, after which they will receive an equal share of the principal.

There are two types of trusts; revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts. Your specialized estate planning lawyer in Orange County will help you determine which suits you.

3. Power of Attorney (POA)

Above, we looked at the thought that goes into choosing your powers of attorney. In the meantime, you will have spoken to them to see if they agree to fill the role. If not, you will have to go with your second-best option. At this point, you officially appoint your POAs.

4. Create a Living Will

A living will is the official advance health care directive, in other words, the answer to your worst-case scenarios. It's important to be crystal clear so there's no confusion about what you want regarding end-of-life care.

5. Include Digital Assets

These are not assets in the typical sense. Instead, they're your usernames, passwords, and other login details for all your social media accounts and online stores, anywhere you've got accounts, subscriptions, monthly donations, and ongoing services. 

For example, Google login, Facebook, ePet.com, Red Cross Children's Hospital, PayPal, web hosts, etc. It's probably going to be a long list.

How to Get Started

Some people look at the enormity of the task and keep putting estate planning on the back burner. This is how people die intestate or with a wishy-washy will that is easily contested. It is a big job, but that's why you need an expert estate planning attorney in Orange County, CA in your corner.

McKenzie Legal & Financial has a department dedicated to estate planning practice, so you know you're getting the best possible service.

We'll start the process and ensure you're never overwhelmed by what's ahead. We know it's not easy planning for your death, so our attorneys provide compassion and support to all their clients.

Contact McKenzie Legal & Financial now to find out how you can start implementing estate planning strategies. Call 562-594-4200 or complete the onsite contact form and we'll get back to you.

Thomas McKenzie Law
Estate Planning Attorney in California. Full-service law firm specializing in estate plans, wills and trusts, long-term care, and financial consulting. Thomas L. McKenzie received his Juris Doctor degree from Western State University College of Law, in Fullerton, California. While working full-time at night and attending full-time daily classes, Tom graduated law school with honors in 1993.

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