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New Year Estate Plan Checkup

Dec 28, 2015 02:51PM ● By Danel DuRee

            Happy 2016! As another year unfolds, we reflect on where we have been and look forward to where this winding path will take us. If you are anything like me, there are a few things you resolve to accomplish in the coming year that you just didn’t quite get around to in 2015. For many people, estate planning is one item that lurks on the periphery of the subconscious “To Do” list we all harbor. While it may seem daunting, the estate planning process is straight forward, and once completed, it can be checked off that list to make room for other, more exciting activities, such as cleaning out the rafters in the garage.

            To make it easier on you, I compiled a list of estate planning issues to check on (and check off) in the new year.

            1. Do you have a revocable trust (and is it up to date)?

            A revocable living trust is crucial in avoiding the legal procedure equivalence of water boarding that is the California probate process. Make sure all your assets are currently held in the name of the trust.

            2. Do you have a will nominating guardians for minor children?

            Ensuring your children are raised by people (or a person) of your choosing is vitally important.

            3. Is your advance healthcare directive current?

            In my opinion, a properly executed advance healthcare directive is even more important than a trust. Put your health and personal care wishes in a valid legal document to ensure they are carried out.

            4. Did you create a durable power of attorney for financial management?

            More than 75% of people that pass away do not have legal capacity to make decisions at the time of their death. Make sure to appoint an agent to make financial, tax, and benefit decisions on your behalf.

            5. Are your beneficiary designation forms current?

            Retirement accounts, pensions, life insurance policies, and annuities are passed to others through a beneficiary designation form. Make sure they reflect your current wishes. It is possible to designate a trust as a beneficiary so that assets will be distributed according to the trust distribution scheme.

            Going through this five-point checklist will ensure that your assets are properly protected and that your wishes are carried out should anything happen to you. If you need assistance, give me a call. I am happy to help. In a couple of short meetings, uncertainty can be traded for peace of mind. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2016 from the Law Offices of Daniel L. DuRee.

 Daniel L. DuRee is a third generation resident of Contra Costa County and a licensed attorney practicing in Walnut Creek. He can be reached at (925) 210-1400 or visit