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Face it, most of us have lives that are messy. There are divorces, remarriages, stepchildren, adult children who can’t handle money or are married to freeloaders. Having an estate plan can really help protect us from ourselves; here are some tips on getting started:

Get a will. It’s the most basic of estate planning documents, but only half of us have them. You need a will because it lets you spell out not only who gets what but how they will get it – and if you have minor children, a will lets you choose who you want to raise them and look after their assets until they are adults. When preparing your will, think about your goals and then consider every possible scenario (divorce, remarriage, stepchildren, etc.).

Consider family shortcomings. So what about that daughter married to a freeloader? If they live in a community property state like California and they divorce, do you really want him to get half of what you give to her? Probably not. Which is why you should consider family shortcomings when it comes to estate planning.

Consider stepchildren. Many of us live in a blended family situations, so you need to consider stepchildren in your estate plan, whether you intend to leave them anything or not.

Make decisions about personal property. Beyond real estate and cash, you need to make a plan for valuable family heirlooms. Many estate battles begin over sentimental items, so deciding who gets Grandma’s wedding ring will help contribute to a smooth transition.

Make decisions about long-term care. Long-term care expenses can quickly deplete an estate, so plan for this care before you need it to protect assets.

Get an attorney. Estate planning has a number of ramifications you may be unaware of, so your best bet is to talk with an estate planning attorney to make sure your heirs get what you want them to have and unnecessary taxes are avoided.

The Flanigan Law Group provides Southern California residents with personal attention for estate planning, administration and litigation legal services. When disputes between families, arise, they are very successful in resolving legal estate issues quickly and efficiently while preserving financial and emotional resources. Contact the Flanigan Law Group at 949-450-0041.