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Estate Planning is the process to develop legal documents to protect loved ones regardless of age, wealth or complexity of an estate, due to incapacity or death. A good estate plan minimizes or avoids the legal fees and taxes imposed at death and guarantees that assets are distributed in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. A thorough estate plan also includes documents that avoid costly legal procedures for due to incapacity. An individual's estate consists of any assets owned including the following:

  • Real property including, but not limited to, residence, rentals, apartments, condominiums, farms, ranches, etc.
  • Bank Accounts
  • Money Market Funds
  • CD's
  • Brokerage Accounts
  • Self-held Stocks and Securities
  • Bonds
  • Retirement Accounts including, but not limited to, IRA's or 401ks
  • Life insurance
  • Businesses
  • Corporations, Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies
  • Personal Property including, but not limited to, jewelry, art, antiques, automobiles, furniture, etc.

What are typical Estate Planning Documents?

Wills: Most people are familiar with Wills which are documents that usually distribute assets at death to surviving spouses and then to children. In California, when someone dies, even a simple Will is subject to a legal proceeding called Probate which can cost as much as three percent (3.0%) to five percent (5.0%) of the gross value of the assets of the decedent and can take several years to complete the administration.

Living Trusts: If you live in California with an estate in excess of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) or regardless of the value of your estate, if you have minor children, you should have a Living Trust. A properly prepared and funded Living Trust completely avoids the Probate process and also avoids the Federal Estate Tax in 2011 and 2012 for any individual worth up to five million dollars ($5,000,000.00) or a married couple worth up to ten million dollars ($10,000,000.00). The Living Trust places no restrictions on assets during lifetime and at death, when assets are distributed to children, provisions in the Trust can dictate who manages the assets and when the beneficiaries receive distributions. This avoids costly Guardianship proceedings. Additionally, if incapacity occurs, Living Trusts provide management of assets without expensive and grueling Conservatorship proceedings.

What does a comprehensive estate planning package include?

  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Will naming the Revocable Living Trust as the beneficiary (Pour-over Will)
  • Status of Property Agreement
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management (during lifetime)
  • Advance Health Care Directive (during lifetime)
  • Transfer documents to title real property in the name of the Living Trust
  • Exhibit A (to transfer titled assets to the Living Trust)
  • Certificate of Trust
  • Nomination of Guardians
  • Beneficiary designations for retirement type accounts
  • Gifting to reduce one’s taxable estate

Depending on the size of your estate, you may also want to consider discussing the following options with our attorneys:

  • Irrevocable Insurance Trusts
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
  • Foundations
  • Asset preservation
  • Limited Liability Companies

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