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Making an estate plan when living in two states

People in California who live part of the year in another state should consider the implications for their estate plan. Only one of their states will be their legal residence, but if they own property in both states, they should take steps to protect those assets.

One step may be placing the property in a trust. This will prevent heirs from having to go through the time and expense of multiple probate processes in more than one state. People might also want to have a durable power of attorney in every state where they own property. This will appoint someone to be in charge of legal and financial decisions if the owner of the property is unable to make them due to incapacity or other reasons.

State taxes, including estate tax, are another consideration. The federal estate tax exemption in 2016 is $5.45 million. California no longer has an estate tax, but there are other taxes associated with passing assets on to beneficiaries that people might want to be aware of.

Estate planning can be a complex process. Regardless of how many assets people own, they might want to consult an attorney. One reason to work with an attorney in creating an estate plan is to avoid errors in wording or documentation that could cause confusion and result in a delay in beneficiaries receiving their assets or even in a person's wishes not being carried out at all. Another reason is that an attorney may be able to point clients toward considerations they may not have thought about. These could range from the ways trusts might be used for a variety of circumstances to considerations in choosing an executor to making sure that documents are updated regularly.

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