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What Documents are Commonly Prepared for an Estate Plan in Fresno, California?

— February 1, 2023

Estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically to address any changes.

The most important of the estate planning documents is the last will and testament prepared for the purposes of explaining where and how an individual would like their assets divided, debts resolved and end of life issues outlined because they are very personal matters. Experienced Fresno estate planning lawyers guide clients to make sure a will contains the legally necessary language so a person’s wishes can be honored at the time of their death according to California and federal laws. 

Many Americans do not think about estate planning unless they have a large estate, a family, or are concerned with aging and illness. Often after they complete this documentation, they do not think of it again until the death of a significant person named therein occurs. It is important to remember that estate plans need to be updated based on current circumstances.  Death, divorce, and estrangement of significant people in ones’ life may impact joint properties, care for minors, insurance and retirement benefits and joint bank accounts to name a few. California estate planning lawyers can assist with updated relevant documents and provide guidance for individuals as they prepare estate plans to reflect changes to named parties in estate planning documents.   

Estate plan documents

Common documents included in estate planning include: 

  • a last will and testament, with guardianship if there are minor children – wills must be prepared properly, signed, witnessed, and notarized according to California law. 
  • an advance healthcare directive – it is important to choose someone who is trusted to oversee long term illness or end-of-life care.  
  • a durable power of attorney – regarding finances and other affairs when one can no longer handle themself. 
  • a trust is part of the estate plan that can provide control over assets left to heirs or names someone to act on behalf of the testator if they become incapacitated and cannot act for themself.  It may also provide privacy and a way to avoid probate action.

Estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically to address any changes in state and federal laws, and updates to individuals named in the documents, accounting for death, divorce, or estrangement of previously named individuals.   

End of life care

A medic in PPE providing care for a COVID patient in a hospital setting.
COVID-19 patient in ICU. Photo by Gustavo Basso, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

It is important to name a trusted individual to carry out the responsibilities outlined in a Living Will which addresses common end-of-life care decisions including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, antibiotic and antiviral therapies, comfort care and donations of organs, tissues, or whole body for scientific study. Consultation with a lawyer is important to understand the distinction between “Do not resuscitate/intubate” and a formal will. An individual does not need to have an advance directive, or living will to have do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) orders. To establish DNR or DNI orders, inform a doctor about these preferences so they can write an order and keep it as part of a medical record.  

Advance directives

Estate planning lawyers draft essential documentation, sometimes called a medical directive or advance directive, to cover an individual, or family members regarding medical power of attorney and do not resuscitate orders. Consultation with tax lawyers  is also a prudent decision so they can review estate planning documents and determine if a trust would lessen tax burdens for heirs and beneficiaries.


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