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Everyone wants to make sure that their family is cared for after they’re gone. With a solid estate plan, you can make sure there’s no confusion about your wishes for your assets and your family when you’re not around to express them anymore.

But first responders are in an unusual position. Working in a job that has a high risk of injury or even death means you have to be extra careful to plan for any contingency. Estate plans are all the more necessary for people working in these professions.

In addition, there are some unique concerns that California first responders ought to consider when putting together their estate plan. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to work with you to ensure that all your needs and your family’s needs are being met by your plan.

Jennifer Reardon has decades of experience as both a Certified Public Accountant and an estate planning attorney. At Reardon Law Firm, she offers discounts on estate plans for San Diego first responders.

Below, she explains why California first responders in particular need estate plans, and what they need to consider when putting together their plans.

Why California first responders need estate plans

When most people think of first responders, they usually think of firefighters. But in reality, there are a number of jobs that respond to emergencies and put themselves at risk of serious injury or death.

Here are some examples of first responders:

  • Firefighters
  • EMTs (emergency medical technicians)
  • Police officers
  • Utility workers
  • Public health professionals and medical personnel

As you can see, these jobs keep all of us safe, but as a result they have a high risk of injury, disease, or even death.

In addition, because of the risk of serious injury, there’s a higher than average risk of becoming incapacitated. In trust and estate management law, someone is “incapacitated” if they’re still alive, but unable to manage their assets– for example, someone in a coma.

People are most often caught without solid estate plans when they’re young, healthy, and not expecting to pass away any time soon. But if you work in one of these fields, you need to consider every possibility.

Don’t hesitate to meet with an estate planning attorney and talk about your options, as well as discuss the unique concerns that California first responders should consider when planning their estate.

What’s included in a good estate plan for a California first responder

Estate plans can allow you to dictate how you want your assets distributed, who you want to take over the family business, and similar financial concerns. Read more about what’s usually covered by an estate plan here.

In addition, however, there are a couple of features that California first responders should consider when developing their estate plans:

  • Trusts: Most estate plans include either a trust or a will, or sometimes both. For a number of reasons, we recommend California first responders base their estate plans around a trust. Wills need to go to probate court to be confirmed, and because California is not a very probate-friendly state, that means it could take years before your assets are actually distributed. Trusts, on the other hand, don’t need to go through probate court. And in addition, trusts can include instructions for what to do if you’re incapacitated, which is a particular concern for people in high-risk jobs, while wills can’t be administered until after your death.
  • Advanced healthcare directive: An advanced healthcare directive will allow you to spell out instructions for what to do if you’re ever incapacitated and need to make medical decisions. It will also allow you to appoint a family member or loved one to act as your representative, and make decisions on your behalf.
  • Power of attorney: Similarly, in the case of incapacitation, general durable power of attorney will allow you to name a family member or loved one to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. Both of these are important elements for any first responder’s estate plan.
  • Guardianship for minor children: If you have any reason to believe that you might become unable to take care of your children while they are still minors, it’s crucial to include a nomination for guardianship of your minor children in your estate plan. This will ensure there is no custody dispute or difficulty finding your children a home.

Contact a San Diego estate planning attorney

If you are a first responder in California, or anyone who wants to start planning for the future, Reardon Law Firm can help — and we offer you a discounted rate. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

We will be more than happy to discuss your situation and offer some next steps for developing an estate plan that is right for you.

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