What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is a framework in which you control your property while you are alive and well. You never lose that control and can change your wishes at any time during your life as long as you are not incapacitated. The plan will provide for you and your loved ones should you become incapacitated or disabled. It will allow you to give what you have to whom you want, the way you want and when you want as opposed to letting the court system decide this for you. It will minimize the impact of professional fees, court costs and in some cases estate taxes where they apply.

How Often do I need to Review?

Every 2-5 years or when there has been a life change (i.e.: marriage, divorce, kids, a new pet, death, change in residence, change in business ownership, etc). The reason for this is to ensure that all assets are properly titled. An estate plan will only work if the assets are held correctly. Also, a review is necessary to update beneficiaries, executors and successor trustees. Also sometimes wishes have changed with regard to finances, healthcare and guardians. Finally some of the documents in an estate plane go stale, meaning that certain institutions will not accept them if they are more than a few years old (ex: financial institutions often won’t recognize a Power of Attorney if it is dated 3 or more years ago).

Who needs a Living Trust / Why do I need a Living TrustI?

It is widely held that a will is sufficient for a simple estate and that a trust is not necessary. Some people think that trusts are for the wealthy and people with a lot of assets. The issue is that a will only comes into effect after you die. If you become incapacitated and you do not have a trust and the ancillary documents in place your loved ones will have to go to court to get conservatorship over you, your healthcare and your finances. In addition, it will be a judge, not you who decides who that person is and you will not be in charge of the decisions that are made for you. If this is all designated ahead of time then court will be avoided and you can state your desires for your care and your assets. Additionally a will does not avoid probate. Probate is a court proceeding where your assets are divided and distributed. If you have no will this will be carried out in accordance with the statutory framework. If you do have a will, your wishes will be approved and carried out but the process is costly (see probate calculator), time consuming and public. All of your assets and your wishes will be available for all to see. A trust is private, the public will never see it.

What is a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney?

This document will make up part of your Estate Plan and will manage non-end-of-life decisions with respect to healthcare. It will preserve your health & well-being. Here you will state your wishes for staying in your own home, pain management, etc. This document will speak for you when you can’t adequately speak for yourself and it will insure that the wishes you had for yourself are carried out as opposed to someone making those decisions for you.

What is a Living Will?

The living will deals with end-of-life issues such as life support and ventilators, artificial nutrition and hydration, religious issues and other emotional issues. The living will means that your family does not have the burden of making very difficult and sometimes scaring decisions because you have already made those decisions.

Purpose Of A will?

Creating a will is an essential step in the estate planning process to protect your assets and the future of the people you love. Your will has three primary purposes, to identify your beneficiaries and the assets that will be distributed to them (whether it be a spouse, children, friends, charities, pets). Secondly, you will name a temporary and permanent guardian for any underage children so that they are not subject to being taken into State custody. Finally, you will name an Executor to carry out all of your wishes and administer the Will.

How often do I need to review my estate plan?

Why do I need a trust?

What is Probate and how much does it cost?

Probate is the court process in which, among other things, a decedent’s debts are paid and assets are transferred to the heirs or, if there is a will, to the beneficiaries named in the will. For a simple probate the process is generally 8-12 months. In the case of an estate with issues the process can be much lengthier. In addition, everything that goes through Probate become public knowledge, anyone can see all of your assets and liabilities. The goal is to stay out of court and out of Probate. See the fee calculator below for the current fees in California which are dictated by CA Probate Code § 10810-10811

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