Planning how to distribute your estate and putting your decisions in writing is one of the best ways to protect your heirs while ensuring your assets remain in the hands of those you love.  Unfortunately, it is possible to over-rely on certain aspects associated with estate planning, placing those closest to you in a precarious position after you pass away. Those who use do-it-yourself estate planning tools are often at greater risk of relying too much on the wrong items, unintentionally creating legal and financial problems for their beneficiaries. Being aware of how over-reliance on certain documents can negatively impact your estate plan will increase your chances of establishing a plan that truly secures your assets and your legacy.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a valuable estate planning tool that allows others (typically a child, spouse, or financial advisor) to act on your behalf. Once established, a power of attorney gives the named adult the ability to pay your bills, administer your assets, and make important decisions for you. In theory, the person you name always acts with your best interests in mind while smoothly transitioning to the role, but things do not always go as expected.

Some financial institutions and creditors may refuse to accept your power of attorney if it was executed over a year ago or does not include certain specific language. Relying on your power of attorney too much could cause problems if you encounter a business that will not recognize it and you or your loved one is no longer able to execute a new estate plan. Your estate plan should include alternative methods for handling situations in the event of your power of attorney not being accepted or recognized.


For many people, the terms ‘will’ and ‘estate plan’ are interchangeable. In reality, an estate plan should consist of much more than just a will. While a will is a crucial part of any estate plan, it does not provide protection in the event of physical or mental incapacitation. Having a document that explains who you want to possess your grandmother’s china does not help your family if they need to pay bills on your behalf or make decisions regarding your medical care.  

Without documents that give specific people permission to act on your behalf, your loved ones may be forced to comply with the decisions of a court or someone appointed by the court.  Instead of your family being able to do things that you have discussed in the past, they will be forced to do what a neutral third party has deemed best. They will be forced to comply, even if that choice is not something you or your family would have agreed with.

Avoid These Situations

One way to avoid the problems that are caused by over-reliance on certain documents is by consulting an estate attorney before making any major decisions. A lawyer who is well versed in California estate law can work with you to create a plan that is balanced and protects your beneficiaries while adhering to your wishes. The attorneys at MMZ Law know how important it is to have an estate plan that accurately reflects your desires and beliefs. We are dedicated to preserving your legacy and making sure that the estate plan you create is exactly what you and your family need. Call our Claremont, California office today for an initial consultation so we can begin providing you with personalized legal representation and advice.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.