Understanding the Difference Between Estate Planning and Legacy Planning

family walking through the parkAn estate plan and a legacy plan are two very different processes, but they are sometimes used in conjunction with each other to ensure that a comprehensive plan is in place prior to one’s death. Fortunately, most estate planning attorneys can explain how the two plans work and how they differ from each other. Below are some essential facts about legacy planning and why it is different from conventional estate planning:

When a traditional estate plan is created, it is typically focused on real estate, bank accounts, and other tangible assets and how they will be distributed in the event of a person’s death. This is because those who have worked hard their entire life, saved wisely, and invested prudently almost always want to pass down their tangible wealth and assets to future generations. To ensure that a person’s property and possessions are distributed according to his or her wishes, a proper estate plan must be created and put in place while the person is still living.

However, many people feel they have much more to pass along to friends and loved ones than merely items of monetary value. Such individuals generally benefit from a legacy plan.

Passing on Values and Philosophies

Most people have formed philosophies, beliefs and values throughout the course of their life that ultimately contributed to their success. Therefore, a person may wish to pass these down to children, grandchildren, and other beneficiaries upon his or her death. Legacy plans were designed for this purpose.

For instance, certain individuals have a desire to be remembered for their generosity. If this is the case, such a plan may include acts of charitable giving. A person who greatly values education may wish to set up a trust fund for the specific purpose of paying college tuition for worthy individuals. Others may hold the entrepreneurial spirit in high regard, in which case they may wish to include trust terms in the legacy plan that motivate a beneficiary to become an entrepreneur or a small business owner.

Legacy planning may also include something referred to as an “ethical will.” The latter date back to biblical times, when many individuals shared spiritual and moral values as part of their legacy after death.

Heirlooms and Mementos

Some individuals also write a diary or record their personal memoirs when creating a legacy plan. The goal of such activity is to offer friends and relatives a record of one’s formative experiences so that those who survive the person’s death can experience personal enrichment from these memories.

Legacy planning may even involve a specific outline for the distribution of family heirlooms. Such items often showcase a family’s history and as such, are highly meaningful to certain individuals. Therefore, a person may wish to designate the way specific heirlooms are transferred to friends or loved ones and may even attach a personal message to each one.


Those who were philanthropists during their lives sometimes choose to continue giving through their estate plan, according to the objectives outlined in their legacy plan. Not surprisingly, in some ways, both the traditional estate plan and the legacy plan work together to reach a common goal.

Each person’s legacy is unique to him or her, and a well thought out legacy plan allows all individuals to pass along more than just money and real estate to their friends and loved ones. Making a legacy plan part of a comprehensive estate plan may be the best way to accomplish this goal.

Estate Planning Made Simple for Millennials

young professional woman with laptopOur estate planning attorneys in Corona routinely correct misconceptions about estate plans. For example, many people believe that one must be a senior citizen, wealthy, or have complicated financial circumstances in order to require this service. However, it is never too early to begin estate planning, and most experts agree that young individuals should give significant thought to this task, as anyone without such a plan is at risk.

Estate Planning Simplified

Estate planning essentially comes down to having the proper documents in place and the appropriate person in charge of estate matters should an individual become ill, disabled or pass away. Below are five basic documents for those who are new to estate planning and are wondering where to begin:

Life Insurance and Beneficiaries

Life insurance is typically not something that younger individuals think about, but it is an important part of estate planning. Experts recommend having life insurance in place at an early age. This is because its cost is relatively low for a younger person, but may be very expensive or even financially out of reach later in life. Such insurance is also usually easier to obtain when a person is young and healthy. However, when life insurance is purchased, it is essential to regularly update the beneficiary so that the appropriate person receives the benefits in the event of the insured’s death.

Last Will and Testament

A will is simply a document indicating how a person wishes to distribute his or her assets upon death and it is never too early to have one in place. It should also name an executor, which is simply an individual that a person puts in charge of settling his or her estate. This individual is typically also in charge of the deceased person’s children. If this document is not properly executed or does not exist, the state must step in and distribute the deceased person’s assets, which most people would agree is not an ideal situation.

Health Care Proxy

Although it is not common, there are occasions where even very young people face serious health issues or are involved in accidents that make it impossible for them to communicate their desires. A health care proxy is simply the legal term for an individual who knows a person’s wishes and can speak for him or her in the event of a catastrophic illness or accident.

A Living Will

Similar to a health care proxy, a living will communicates the kind of medical care, resuscitation efforts, life-sustaining measures or drugs a person wishes to receive. However, a living will is a document that outlines such wishes in writing, as opposed to relying solely on verbal communication from the health care proxy.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a document that names a person who is allowed to make financial decisions for someone else if that individual can no longer manage assets without help. It is important, however, to select this person carefully, as he or she can make legal decisions on the other individual’s behalf.

It is natural for Millennials to feel as if their lives are just beginning. However, no one can predict the future. Proper estate planning allows people to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing their loved ones and assets are protected in the event of a serious illness or death.

If you are a young person trying to be proactive about getting your affairs in order, our estate planning attorneys can answer your questions at info@ocelderlaw.com.

Understanding Probate and How it Can be Avoided

Understanding Probate and How it Can be Avoided

probate stamp on file folderThe term probate refers to the process by which a person’s last will and testament is executed. The will is filed in court, and the latter oversees the administration of the terms and conditions found within the document. Some individuals use an estate planning attorney to ensure the appropriate documentation is in place prior to their death, as this can go a long way toward avoiding probate complications at a later time.

The Probate Process

Probate is governed by state laws, and each step of the process is contingent upon a variety of factors, such as the real estate laws in the area where the deceased person lived, and whether he or she had a will or died intestate–without a will.

If the appropriate documents were in place at the time of the person’s death, the administrator of the estate is typically named in the will and referred to as an executor. However, if no such person is named or no will is in place, the probate court chooses an executor and the process begins.

The next part of the probate process is the identification and inventorying of the deceased person’s property. In most cases, assets cannot be distributed or sold until probate is complete. Properties are then appraised, and any taxes or debts owed by the deceased must be paid. Finally, the assets that remain are then distributed according to deceased individual’s will or based on state law if the person died intestate.

Even though probate is typically a straightforward process, numerous individuals prefer that it be avoided. Multiple reasons exist for this preference, but below are the three most popular:

Time Frame

If the will is contested or if the estate is particularly complicated, it may take several years to finalize it through probate court. Such delays often cause major inconveniences for all involved.


Although specific costs vary widely from one state to the next, probate generally includes administrative expenses, such as fees for the executor, appraiser, and probate lawyer. The fast accumulation of such charges often leads to additional expenses that most people do not anticipate.

Public Disclosure

Probate is a court-related process, and therefore a matter of public record. For this reason, many individuals prefer to avoid this process entirely. However, no matter why a person wishes to avoid probate, he or she will be pleased to know that specific steps can be taken to do so.

Estate Size

In most states, a probate exemption level is predetermined by the state. At the very least, this provides for an expedited process if the estate is small. For this reason, some individuals prefer to keep their estate small, as well as familiarize themselves with the probate estate limits in the area where they reside.

Benefits of a Living Trust

Establishing a living trust is another good way to avoid probate, as property that is held in trust does not become part of the deceased’s estate. This is due to the fact that a specifically-appointed individual controls the trust under previously arranged terms and that person is obligated to distribute it accordingly, with no need to wait for the probate process.

Making Accounts Payable Upon Death

Accounts designated as payable upon death are immediately distributed to the appropriate beneficiary, rather than having to go through probate. Therefore, this is another good way to simplify the process.

Advance Distribution of Assets

Some individuals avoid probate or ensure a simplified probate process in the future by reducing the value of their estate in advance. This can be done by distributing property to friends and family prior to one’s death, rather than after.

Estate planning attorneys can assist virtually anyone to avoid probate or its pitfalls. For this reason, certain individuals seek the advice of such a professional in advance in order to simplify or eliminate the probate process.