Estate Planning, Wills and Trust Attorney

Estate planning is a necessity in modern life, as every person will need some type of plan to dispose of their property after they are gone.  It is also about providing and caring for you and your loved ones, both now and in the future. Our office represents clients in drafting, executing and maintaining their estate plan.  The time to plan your estate is now while you are still able.

A well-crafted estate plan has three main objectives that will enable you to:

  • Retain control over your assets during your lifetime and transfer them to the beneficiaries of your choice
  • Minimize costs, legal fees, and taxes, and avoid unnecessary court fees such as probate or conservatorship
  • Settle the estate quickly and privately, while reducing the chance for disputes by clearly stating your intentions

Tools of Estate Planning: Wills, Trust and Other Estate Planning Documents

Our office utilizes legal strategies and a variety of estate planning documents to craft customized plans designed to meet the specific needs and circumstances of our clients. When we draft an estate plan, it usually includes the following:

Revocable Living Trust

The living trust is the foundation of most  good estate plans, because it serves a number of purposes.  One important purpose is that the assets in the trust will not be subject to probate administration, a costly and cumbersome court proceeding.  Any property not transferred in the trust which is “probate property” may be subject to probate, especially if the aggregate amount of probate property in the decedent’s name exceeds $150,000.  Another advantage is that you have a successor trustee in the trust who will be able to manage your financial and other business affairs should you become incapacitated.  This may avoid a conservatorship proceeding , and it could save you and your family considerable time and money. 

Another important benefit of the living trust is the convenience factor.   Since a living trust is revocable, you retain control of trust assets and can easily revoke or amend the trust at any time.  Furthermore, trust assets can be  distributed to beneficiaries much faster than the probate process.

So what is a revocable living trust and how does it work?  It is a legal entity created to hold property.  It can be set up either an an individual or a joint trust.  There are three parties to the trust, the settlor/trustor who set up the trust, the trustee who manages the trust, and beneficiaries who will receive distribution from the trust.  The trust document contains  a set of instruction pertaining to the management of trust assets, the power given to the trustee, designation of beneficiaries, appointment of successor trustees and setting up of trust for minors.

Pour-over Will

This will is designed to “pour over” any assets you may own in your name at the time of your death to your revocable trust.  However this will may not be needed at  your death, as it is merely a “backup” device that ensures that assets you may have left outside the trust during your lifetime is “poured” into the trust upon your death.   If all of your property is either held in trust or is held in the for of non-probate property, then your will will not dispose of any property, and can be disregarded.  In order to avoid probate, it is important to make sure that title held in your individual name do not total more than $150,000.

Durable Power of Attorney

Noone likes to think about their possible disability or incapacity, but disability planning is an essential part of any estate planning.  As one of the most important documents for disability planning, the Durable Power of Attorney is a very powerful document designed to allow the designated person or persons to serve as agent(s) to manage your financial affairs and to deal with matters affecting your property outside your trust upon your incapacity, especially property still held in your name.  Your agent can be given certain specified powers, such as the power to buy and sell real estate, pay your bills, or perform banking transactions.   It can take effect immediately or in the future if you become incapacitated, and terminates on your death.  A properly drafted and executed DPOA can help you avoid the time and expense of conservatorship of the estate.

Advance Health Care Directives

In California, this document incorporates two elements.  The first element is a power of attorney for health care that allows you to appoint a person to act as your  agent on your behalf to make decisions about your health and medical care.  This can help you avoid the time and expense of conservatorship of the person. The second element is a set of advance directives that allow you to state your wishes regarding the provision or withholding of medical treatment such as life support in the event you are suffering from an incurable or irreversible medical condition.  You can choose whether or not your life should be prolonged if such an event were to occur.  Should you change your mind in the future regarding any aspect of the Advance Health Care Directives, you can revoke them or execute new ones.

HIPAA Releases and Authorization

The HIPAA Releases allow the designated person or persons to obtain all of your medical records.  This form is designed to negate a new privacy law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which makes it difficult for anyone other than you to obtain this type of information.  The HIPAA releases are effective immediately, and may be later revoked.