General Estate Planning
Almost everyone needs an estate plan. Not having a plan actually means that you have the State of California's plan and have selected the court to oversee the implemention of that plan. I will work with you to ensure that you have a customized plan that satisfies your objectives, can be changed when your objectives change and will avoid the cost and delays associated with court involvement (a process called probate).
A basic estate plan will accomplish the following:
Allow you to select the people who will make decisions for you regarding both your assets and medical care in the event you are no longer able to do so as a result of death or incapacity
Allow you to designate who will act as guardian for any minor children
Allow you to provide detailed instructions regarding the distribution of your assets
Avoid ongoing court oversight of assets held for minor children
Allow you to determine when your children (or other loved ones) will have access to money when you are not around (The state assumes they are responsible enough to manage their inheritance at 18)
Allow you to designate someone you trust to act in the best interest of adult or minor beneficiaries in the event you are unable to do so
A basic estate plan consists of the following four primary documents:
Revocable Trust: A revocable trust is designed to hold all of your assets during your life and then provide your trustee with directions regarding how to manage those assets in the event of your death or incapacity. The main benefit of a trust is that it leaves a trustee selected by you in charge of your assets when you are no longer able to manage them yourself. It also avoids costs and delay associated with probate and preserves your privacy.
Will: Your will serves two functions. It transfers any assets that you may have inadvertently forgotten to put into your trust into the trust at the time of your death. It is also the proper place for you to designate guardians for any minor children.
Powers of Attorney: This document gives someone you appoint the legal authority to act on your behalf in the event your are unable to do so with respect to assets not already included in your revocable trust.
Advanced Health Care Directive: This document appoints someone to act on your behalf with regard to medical decisions. It provides a place for you to indicate your specific wishes with regard to your medical treatment.
Advanced Estate Planning
After your basic estate plan is in place, you can consider whether any advanced estate planning options are right for you. Advanced estate planning options may be used to facilitate lifetime gifting of your assets, reduce estate taxes or provide for the succession of your business. Advanced estate planning may involve setting up multiple irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, limited liability companies or limited partnerships to ensure estate planning goals are accomplished.
When someone passes away, there are a number of tasks that must be completed. The process of completing those tasks for someone who has set up a revocable trust is called trust administration. Many trustees will need assistance with the process. The complexity of trust administration varies with the size and nature of assets held in the trust. It may include preparation of estate tax returns, asset valuation, setting up new trusts for any surviving spouse or children, going to court to settle a dispute or to clarify a decedent's intent, transferring title of assets and making distributions to beneficiaries.
Probate is the name of the court supervised process that happens to distribute assets when a person dies without any estate planning. Dealing with probate and the court system is time-consuming, complicated and expensive and may take the decisions out of the hands of the people you would want to make them.