5 Documents That Should Be Included In Every Comprehensive Estate Plan In California

Mar 7, 2024

An estate plan is a collection of legal tools that explicitly detail how your hard-earned wealth should be managed, both now and in the future. Think of it as the most powerful way to get your affairs in order and ensure that your legacy is preserved and that you can be as confident in your future as possible.

Many people put off creating an estate plan because they think they’ll have more time later on in life, or they are intimidated by how complex and emotional the process may be, but no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Passing away or becoming incapacitated without an estate plan in place could leave your family to untangle a complicated web of legal obstacles without you, forcing them to guess about what you would have wanted. 

If you ask the average person what legal documents they should have in their estate plan, they may think that all they need is a will. However, while having a last will and testament is definitely important, a will alone can’t completely protect your assets, your loved ones, or your future. 

This blog will be dedicated to the 5 crucial documents that should be included in your comprehensive California estate plan.


A trust is a financial entity to which a person transfers their assets to be managed in a way that benefits them and fulfills a purpose. You can think of a trust like a box that holds all the things that are most valuable to you, which might include money, property, or other possessions. Trusts are a key component of any solid estate plan, and can help you…

  • Ensure that your assets are managed for the benefits of your heirs, according to your wishes
  • Preserve your assets while potentially minimizing taxes and probate costs associated with transferring assets through a will
  • Establish a tax-advantaged charitable gift
  • Provide an orderly way or managing your finances if bad health prevents you from doing so
  • Leave money to a dependent with special needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for public benefits
  • Pass on a thriving business to the next owner without a delay in operations
  • And more!

There are a variety of different trusts to choose from, but by working with a skilled estate planning attorney who will take the time to get to know you and your goals, you can move forward with the one that most closely aligns with your objectives.


When a trust and will are paired together, you can not only ensure the protection of your assets, but have peace of mind that you have created a clear and thorough roadmap for how those assets should be passed on after your death. Your will allows you to…

  • Be clear about who gets your assets 
  • Keep your assets out of the hands of people you don’t want to have them (like a relative you had a falling-out with)
  • Identify who should care for your minor children in the event of your unexpected death
  • Speed up the time it takes for your heirs to get access to the inheritance you intended for them
  • Plan to save your estate money on taxes
  • Plan to donate a portion of your assets to a charity that is near to your heart
  • And more!

One important thing to know about wills is that every state has their own requirements for it to be considered valid, so you won’t be able to throw one together on a sheet of notebook paper whenever the mood strikes you. 

In California, a will must be in writing, signed in front of two witnesses and a legally authorized person (like your attorney), only for one person, signed on every page and at the end, have each page numbered, and finally, have attached a certificate in the exact form of California Probate Code section 6384 which is signed and dated. 

Durable Power Of Attorney

You likely already know that power of attorney is a document that allows you to authorize a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf when you are in need. There are different kinds of POA you can have, but a durable POA allows you to specify the types of decisions your agent is able to make. The three main benefits of having durable power of attorney are…

  • Having an agent who can continue to make decisions on your behalf and based on your wishes, even when you cannot act for yourself
  • Providing clarity to your loved ones about what you want when you may be unable to communicate
  • Being able to revise or revoke power of attorney as your needs and wishes change

Advance Healthcare Directive

The purpose of this document is for an individual to list out their preferences for critical or end-of-life medical care, to be used in the event that they become unable to speak for themself. For example, you may not wish to be subjected to intubation, resuscitation, or other artificial forms of life support. This not only ensures that you remain in control of your bodily autonomy, but it can also help your loved ones grieve more easily and feel less guilt and depression than if they are forced to make the decision themselves, without certainty that it’s what you would have wanted. 

There are two types of advance directives you can have: a living will or a durable power of attorney for healthcare (or healthcare proxy). An attorney can help you determine which may be best based on your needs and goals. 

Quitclaim Deed

This document serves to release a person’s interest in a property without stating the nature of the person’s interests or rights, and with no warranties of that person’s interest or rights in the property. They are typically beneficial in the process of transferring property in non-sale situations, such as transfers of property between family-members. By using this method, the property can potentially avoid probate, thus maintaining the privacy of all the parties involved and saving money. 

Karpel Law Firm Can Simplify The Estate Planning Process And Help You Gain Confidence In Your Future!

Our team of attorneys have been helping clients navigate this complex process for nearly 30 years. We know how deeply personal this experience can be and we strive to make it as pleasant an experience as we can by being attentive, professional, and compassionate. Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect everything you care about most! Call today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about your options today!