Estate planning focuses on avoiding expensive legal procedures like Probate and Conservatorships while ensuring your estate passes to the intended beneficiaries. Well-designed estate plans help to minimize or avoid 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 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
- Qualified 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 proceedings and federal estate taxes 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 designated beneficiaries. 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.
A comprehensive estate planning package includes the following:
- Revocable Living Trust
- Exhibit A (to transfer titled assets to the Living Trust)
- Pour-over Will
- 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 qualified accounts
- Gifting to reduce one’s taxable estate
Consider discussing the following options with our attorneys:
- Irrevocable Insurance Trust
- Irrevocable Children’s Trust
- Irrevocable Grandchildren’s Trust
- Qualified Personal Residence Trust
- Asset Preservation
- Limited Liability Company
- Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management for yourself, dependents, and adult children
- Advance Health Care Directive for yourself, dependents, and adult children
- HIPAA Release for yourself, dependents, and adult children
When a loved one dies with a living trust, a trusted individual, the surviving spouse, or children are designated as trustee. The trustee is 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.
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 explain provisions in the trust documents, answer trustee and beneficiary questions, locate and evaluate assets, provide the requisite notices to beneficiaries and state entities, draft and file required documents (affidavits, declarations, deeds, petitions, etc.), appear at 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 attorneys and staff are experienced in mitigating the costs and expediting the process. We have represented many clients in their role as executor or personal representative and assist in all aspects of the probate process.
Estate & Gift Tax
In order to preserve an estate for your children and beneficiaries, 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, lifetime estate and gift tax exemptions, discounting, and irrevocable trusts to reduce an estate for purposes of federal estate tax.
Clients who have business interests have natural concerns as to who 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 to the next generation and beyond.
Our firm has a reputation for developing creative solutions that enable smooth business transitions. Business planning also considers strategies for liability protection. Our attorneys create Corporations or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) to shelter the personal assets of clients who own businesses or rental properties.