How to Avoid Personal Probate | Estate Plan Pros
Avoid Personal Probate

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Ask yourself, if you can’t make your own medical or financial decisions, who can? Statistically, most of us will experience some period of incapacity.  With the right legal documents, you can choose the person you trust the most the help you when you need it most.

You know you shouldn’t leave home without your wallet.  You also shouldn’t leave home without two key legal documents.

Just like wearing a bike helmet or putting on a seatbelt, these two documents are designed for your legal safety.  Every adult needs them.  What are they?  In California, they’re called the Advance Health Care Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney.

Picture this: your husband is in a bad car accident on his way home from work.  He’s completely incapacitated, and going to be that way for the foreseeable future.  In order to make ends meet, you need to make adjustments to his company 401k, and a host of other financial decisions.  As his spouse, you can sign off on a lot of those decisions, but not all.  Now you’re stuck, you need his signature, but he can’t give it.  However, if you had a Durable Power of Attorney, you could act on his behalf.

Now I'm not going to bore you with the details of what makes a good Durable Power of Attorney or Advance Health Care Directive, but I do want to ask you one important question:

How important is it that the right people be in charge?  Well, just ask Lamar Odom.

Recently basketball star Lamar Odom was in a coma for four days in a Las Vegas hospital.  Despite the fact that he had nearly finalized his divorce from Khloe Kardashian, she was still his medical decision maker.  And while it worked out for Lamar, how about you?  When you’ve finished or are in the process of a divorce, who do you want making important medical and financial decisions?  These are documents that should be updated right away.

Let's say Lamar didn’t have an AHCD.

He would have had an ex-wife over here, brother or sister over there, maybe parents, all fighting it out in court, and in the meantime Lamar is languishing on a hospital bed.  Doctors and nurses need to make decisions NOW but guess what, by the time the court can act, days will have gone by, and it may take months for a permanent decision to be made.  So who’s in charge?  Attorney fees are piling up, people are talking to the press, and it's an enormous expensive mess.

The way to avoid this kind of legal mess is to have a well-drafted Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care directive in place as part of your complete estate plan.  

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Erik Hartstrom

Erik is the founder of Estate Plan Pros, a leading estate planning practice in Elk Grove.  Erik’s practice focuses on Estate Planning Law. In Estate Planning, Erik works with clients to make the process simple, so clients can focus on more important things. He is a local authority for specialized estate planning instruments, like Special Needs Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, or other focused documents. Erik has litigated, negotiated, and mediated the gamut of family law cases. With this unique perspective as a family law and estate attorney he can often spot issues otherwise overlooked. Prior to graduating he worked as a legislative analyst for a non-profit organization, and volunteered as a youth counselor. Erik currently participates in local politics and is an active member of his local church. Erik is very happily married and has two young sons. Together, his family loves to get outdoors and enjoy the varied activities the Sacramento region has to offer.


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