Although considering the end of life is not uplifting for residents in California, creating a will and final testament is the best way to prevent headaches and complications for a person's heirs after their death. If such a document is not made, the state will carry out an estate plan for the deceased, irrespective of the needs of their heirs or personal wishes. Drafting a will with a professional usually runs between $500 and $2,000 but can be done for much less if an online service is used and the needs are straightforward.
Taking a specific, itemized inventory of all liabilities and assets is the best way to begin the process. Such items to sort out may include investments, real estate holdings and retirement savings. Then, it becomes important to ask who should inherit the things and who should be responsible for executing the terms of the will. In the event that one becomes unable to make lucid decisions about their will, someone should be appointed to do this task for them.
A living will is another important part of this process. This document is also known as an advanced medical directive and explicates one's wishes for life-sustaining treatment, or the absence of it, in the event that health declines to the point where a person is no longer able to communicate. Many states have certain statutes that direct when such orders should be executed; one's own personal wishes will also be subjectively interpreted to a degree.
Estate planning involves some complicated financial moves because of all the liabilities and assets to consider. An attorney may help with this process by organizing and itemizing these things, which inevitably may help them be given to the proper heirs when the time comes.
Source: CNN, "10 steps to painless estate planning", Martha White, March 03, 2014