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Estate Planning

A well-executed estate plan is designed to serve three purposes. First, it should provide for your loved ones and distribute your assets in a manner that consistently and effectively matches your wishes for how you want them distributed. Second, your estate plan should minimize attorneys’ fees and state and federal estate taxes.

Basic estate planning is recommended and appropriate for anyone with a gross estate asset fair market value exceeding $200,000. If the fair market value of your gross estate exceeds $5 million, then you should speak to us about more sophisticated Family Wealth Preservation techniques, in addition to basic estate planning. Basic estate planning consists of the following:

  • Revocable Living Trust: This trust functions as what most people would consider a will and transferors your estate to your heirs upon your death. The secondary purpose of this document is so that your estate escapes probate and associated attorneys’ fees. For example, if you are a state has a gross asset value of $500,000 and you use a will instead of a trust to bequest your assets to your children, then the California Probate Code directs that an attorney shall be paid $13,000 for probate services. With a properly administrated revocable trust, there would be no probate fees. Furthermore, a properly administrated revocable trust will generally distribute your assets quicker than probating a will.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A DPA will provide an individual of your choosing with the power to make financial decisions for you in the events of your incapacitation or inability to make decisions on your own. If you do not have a DPA in place before you begin to be unable to competently take care of your finances, then the only way that anyone can take care of your finances until you die is by establishing a conservatorship. A conservatorship is a costly and time-consuming process that can only be established through the courts, and it is best if it can be avoided by having the proper documents in place.
  • Advance Health Care Directive: An advance health care directive is similar to a DPA, but it gives an individual of your choosing power over your health decisions in the event of your incapacitation or inability to make decisions on your own. This can be as detailed or as general as you desire, and it typically includes information such as end-of-life decisions, organ donations, care in the event of Alzheimer’s, and what you wish to be done with your remains. If you do not have an advance health care directive in place, then the hospital will make these decisions on your behalf.
  • Pour-Over Will: This will transfers all of your property into the revocable trust that has not yet been transferred into trust, thereby preventing this property from going through the costly probate process described above.
  • Grant Deeds and Preliminary Change of Ownership Reports: It is necessary to fill out grant deeds and preliminary change of ownership reports for all of your real property that you transforming and trust because the trust will be the beneficial owner of the property. This is a common transaction, and it does not trigger any reassessments for property tax purposes.
  • General Assignment of Assets: This is a general assignment of your assets to the trust, so that you will be able to take advantage of your trust.
  • Certification of Trust: You will use this document to transfer your bank accounts and other financial instruments to your trust.
  • Letters to Your Heirs and Prospective Agents and Trustees: At your discretion, we will write letters to your heirs and prospective agents and trustees to guide them through your estate plan in your wishes for its administration. We believe that this is key in ensuring that your wishes are carried out.
  • Memo on Funding: In this memo, we explain to you how to take advantage of your trust and keep it funded.