Estate planning focuses on avoiding expensive legal procedures like Probate and Conservatorship while ensuring that your estates and businesses pass to the intended beneficiaries. Well-designed estate plans help to minimize or entirely avoid legal fees or taxes imposed at death, guarantee distribution of assets in accordance with the wishes of the deceased, and include provisions and documents to avoid costly legal procedures that may arise 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.
- Accounts at Banks and Savings
- Money Market Funds
- Mutual Funds
- Deeds of Trust
- Certificates of Deposit
- Brokerage Accounts
- Stock Certificates
- Retirement Accounts including, but not limited to, IRA’s or 401ks
- Roth IRA’s
- Life Insurance
- Corporations, Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies
- Personal Property including, but not limited to, airplanes, jewelry, art, antiques, automobiles, furniture, etc.
What are typical Estate Planning Documents?
Living Trusts: California residents with an estate in excess of one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000.00) or any resident with minor children should consider a Living Trust. A proper Living Trust can avoid the probate process, costly Guardianship and Federal Estate Tax while placing no restrictions on assets during lifetime. A Living Trust should also include provisions about how and when assets are distributed to beneficiaries and who should manage the assets until final distribution. If incapacity occurs, Living Trusts provide management of assets without expensive and grueling Conservatorship proceedings.
Wills: Most people are familiar with Wills, which are documents that usually distribute assets at death to surviving spouses and then to children. When someone dies in California, 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.
What does a comprehensive estate planning package include?
- Revocable Living Trust
- Exhibit A (to transfer titled assets to the Living Trust)
- Pour-over Will (Will naming the Revocable Living Trust as the beneficiary)
- Agreement as to the Status of Property
- Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management (during lifetime)
- Advance Health Care Directive (during lifetime)
- HIPAA Release
- Transfer documents to title real property in the name of the Living Trust
- Assignment of business interest or other assets
- Certificate of Trust
- Nomination of Guardians
- Beneficiary designations for life insurance and pension
- 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
- Irrevocable Children Trust
- Irrevocable Grandchildren Trust
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
- Asset preservation
- Limited Liability Companies
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advance Health Care Directive for dependents and for your children over age 18
When a loved one with a Living Trust dies, the surviving spouse or children are often named as Successor Trustees who are responsible for administering the estate in accordance with the provisions of the Living Trust. This can be a complex and daunting task for a grieving family member without legal counsel.
The attorneys at Hales & George have assisted thousands of named Trustees to simplify the trust administration process and protect the Trustee during a difficult time. Our attorneys will explain provisions in the trust documents, answer trustee and beneficiary questions, help find and evaluate assets, provide the requisite notices to beneficiaries and state entities, draft and file required documents (affidavits, declarations, deeds, petitions, etc.), attend court hearings if necessary, and re-title assets to achieve the proper distribution of the estate.
Probate is a legal proceeding where estates are administered when the deceased died with a will or with no estate plan (intestate). In Probate, the court supervises the legal process to ensure that all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid before the deceased’s remaining assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries.
Probate can be both expensive and time-consuming. Hales & George lawyers and staff are experienced in mitigating the costs and expediting the administration process. We have represented many clients in their role as Executor or Personal Representative and have assisted in all aspects of the Probate process.
Estate & Gift Tax
In order to preserve an estate for your children and beneficiaries, one should utilize
estate planning solutions exist which utilize a strategy of making lifetime gifts to reduce or eliminate federal estate tax.
Our attorneys are able to provide strategies and techniques using annual gift tax exemptions, discounting and revocable trusts to reduce on estate for purposes of the federal estate tax.
Hales & George attorney’s continually monitor changes in state and federal law and inform clients of new provisions that affect them.
Clients who have business interests have natural concerns as to whom will own and manage their business in the event of disability, death or retirement. As a family-owned business, Hales & George attorneys are well aware of the unique challenges related to ensuring equitable and peaceful transfers of a business and its assets to the next generation and beyond.
Our firm has developed a reputation for developing conservative yet creative solutions that enable smooth business transitions. Business planning also considers strategies for liability protection, and our attorneys are able to form Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) for clients who own businesses or rental properties and want to shelter their personal assets.