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Estate planning should account for when things go wrong

California residents who are planning their estates might need to include clauses that address seemingly unlikely situations. When a spouse or an heir dies before or at the same time as an estate's creator, the state government may step in and implement statutes that impede the usual distribution of property. By incorporating features like simultaneous death clauses that designate who should be considered to have predeceased the other individual in cases where couples and other closely related estate creators perish simultaneously, it may be possible to avoid such outcomes. Those with joint ownership of assets may retitle such properties to ensure that they don't get transferred to the wrong estate when the original owners die.

It might be smart to plan for when the estate creator outlives all of their beneficiaries. Terms known as Titanic clauses create default beneficiaries like charitable causes and nonprofits so that assets don't automatically go to unintended relatives.

Estate creators can also use clauses to indicate how a deceased beneficiary's own heirs, such as their children, will get the proceeds from the original estate. Some property owners rely on trusts and similar structures to manage what they leave behind and provide their beneficiaries with improved protection. Experts say it's also important to name contingent beneficiaries for individual assets like retirement and insurance plans.

To plan estates effectively, their creators may need to invoke complex legal mechanisms and specially tailored clauses. In addition to trying to avoid unforeseen probate circumstances, they might find it necessary to choose specific asset structures to reduce their tax burdens and ensure that the greatest portion of their properties reaches their intended heirs. Estate planning attorneys may be able to offer insights about the most effective forms of asset holdings and will language.

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