Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Estate Planning Important?
Estate planning is important for many reasons. Some of them are:
1. It can minimize or eliminate cost of probate
2. It sets forth how and to whom your assets are to be distributed at your death confirming to your wishes;
3. It can minimize estate taxes;
4. It can provide for your care in the event of disability;
5. It can allow you to maintain control of your assets both during life and after death.
6. It can preserve assets for your heirs in the event long-term nursing home care becomes necessary.
Do I need a Will?
Generally speaking, most people benefit from having a will. Having a valid will in place at your death can help make the administration and distribution of your estate easier for those who are left behind. Most of us are concerned (at least to some degree) about what happens to our property at our death and in whose hands our property ultimately falls. It is because of this concern that a will is a good idea for most everyone who has capacity to make one.
I do not have many assets, so I think a will is unnecessary for me. Am I right?
Not necessarily. You do not know what your financial condition will be at your death or what property you will own at your death. Also, your family situation may make having a will crucial to your loved ones. For example, if you are married with a minor child, having a will can make all the difference for your survivors, even if you have few assets. On the other hand, if you have little property, are unmarried, with no children, with both parents alive, and you want all of your property to pass to your parents, you may not need a will. These are just examples. Please schedule an appointment for more information.
How much does a will cost?
This question is difficult to answer because the complexity (or lack thereof) of each individual’s situation will determine the amount of time that is necessary to prepare the will.
We bill on a flat-fee basis for our services. When you hire us to assist you in preparing a will, we make sure that you fully understand the fee structure.
Will a Will save my property from going through the probate?
Using a will virtually guarantees your property will pass through probate at your death.
Do I have to probate the will?
Whether or not you need to probate depends on the nature of the assets and how they are titled (in whose name are they held). We can help answer this question. There may be shortcut methods to avoid a complete administration if appropriate in your case. Please schedule an appointment for more information.
What if you don’t want to distribute property directly to your beneficiaries?
The will directs the distribution of property directly to the beneficiaries unless the will directs the distribution into the trust to be managed by a trustee named in the will. The trust directs how the trustee is to manage the property e.g. distribution of the income from the trust assets and the distribution of the trust principal at a specific time (i.e. when the beneficiary turns 25 years old).
Such trusts are commonly used to provide income to spouses or to hold property until minor children become adults. The trust helps protect the minor children from spending the gifts unwisely or in a wasteful manner but the trust can still provide support for their needs through discretionary payments by the trustee.
What if you die without an Estate Plan?
If you die without a will (that is, "intestate"), California law will determine the beneficiaries of your estate. Contrary to popular myth, if you die without a will, everything does not automatically go to the state. If you are married, your spouse receives all of your community property. Your spouse will receive part of your separate property, and the rest of your separate property will be distributed to your children or grandchildren, parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews or other close relatives.
If you are not married, your assets will be distributed to your children or grandchildren, if you have any -- or to your parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews or other close relatives. Friends or a favorite charity will receive nothing if you have no relatives and die without a will. In that case, the State of California is the beneficiary of your estate.
Is it true that a Revocable Living Trust does not save me taxes?
No. Depending upon the size of your estate and type of trust, certain tax planning concepts can be used to eliminate or reduce estate taxes. A husband and wife will be able to leave to their heirs as much as $5.430 million, each, free of federal estate taxes, based on death in 2015.
Please schedule an appointment for more information and other ways to save your taxes.
Should I consider a Revocable Living Trust?
1. Do you want anyone to take care of you if you were seriously ill or incapacitated?
2. Do you want to provide for your children or other dependents when you are incapacitated?
3. Do you and your spouse or significant other carry life insurance?
4. Do you own your own home or other property?
5. Do you want to set aside funds for retirement?
6. Do you need to provide for your children or grandchildren's educations?
7. Do you expect to inherit other assets?
8. Do you own real estate or other income producing assets?
9. Do you own a family or closely held business that would be disrupted by probate delays?
10. Do you travel frequently?
11. Do you want to avoid probate?
12. Do you want to insure continuity of cash flows and investments in your portfolio
If yes, you should consider having a living trust to protect and properly transfer your assets, and to avoid the costly and unintended consequences of probate.
Please contact and schedule for free one hour meeting to consult the type of trust that could be beneficial for you and your loved ones.
This is general information and does not constitute specific legal advice. Individual situations vary and we will be able to guide and advise you only after knowing your personal needs and facts.
Living Trusts vs. Wills
What is a Will?
A will is a document, which controls the passage of your property upon your death. A personal representative named in your will manages the property in your estate. The personal representative pays any bills of the estate and distributes the property directly to the beneficiaries designated in your will.
Trusts are well suited for the passive management of money or property but are less well suited for active operations.