Estate planning is the act of deciding what will happen to your estate and how your affairs will be handled after you pass away, or in some cases, when you lose the ability to make those decisions while you're alive.
It's about taking care of your loved ones as much as it is about taking care of yourself. Anyone who expects to own something of value during his or her life, be it monetary or sentimental, should consider having an estate plan of some type.
An estate plan can be as simple as having just a will. But a more prudent estate plan will often consist of the following four basic documents:
- Revocable Trust (AKA, living trust)
- Pourover Will
- Power of Attorney for Business and Financial Affairs
- Advance Health Care Directive
What is a Revocable Trust?
A revocable trust -- and specifically one that names you as the initial trustee -- allows you to completely control your assets during your lifetime. It allows you to, among other things, state a detailed distribution plan upon your passing, name a guardian for your children if you become incapacitated or pass away, and name a conservator for you if you become incapacitated.
Another important hallmark of a revocable trust -- if things are handled correctly -- is that your estate will avoid being subject to the court probate process, which is expensive, lengthy, public, and very uncertain.
What is a Pourover Will?
A pourover will allows you to "pour into" your trust any assets that, at the time of your passing, were not already owned by your trust. This process might not necessarily avoid the probate process, but it will ensure that all your assets are distributed in precisely the manner called for by your trust.
What is a Power of Attorney for Business and Financial Affairs?
A power of attorney for business and financial affairs allows you to appoint someone (called an attorney in fact) to manage your assets and business for you if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. You can set clear rules to govern how much or how little authority your agent will have.
What is an Advance Health Care Directive?
An advance health care directive allows you to appoint someone (called an agent) to make health-care decisions for you if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. You can set clear rules to govern how much or how little authority your agent will have. You can also state your wishes regarding things such as where and whom you want to live with if you are incapacitated, dying-moments care, funeral arrangements, and organ donations.
More complex estate plans might include one or more of the following mechanisms:
- Life insurance trusts
- Irrevocable trusts
- California private retirement plans
- Transferring ownership of assets to one or more LLCs
- Asset protection planning
- Special needs trusts
- Special tax planning
- Pet trusts
Trustee and Administrative Services
I provide representation and guidance to those in the position of overseeing the administration of trusts, wills, and estates. In addition, I will consider accepting appointments as trustee or executor if the circumstances are appropriate.
An estate plan is set of rules and priorities that can profoundly change lives. To ensure that your plan represents your wishes at every stage of your life, it's imperative that you allow it to be fluid. Therefore, you deserve to have a long-term commitment from me when you entrust me with helping you create your estate plan.
When you retain me to represent you, my all-inclusive fee will include:
All third-party costs required to set up your plan (fn1)
Free changes to your documents for the first three years (fn2)
After three years, changes will cost only $50 (fn2)
Free wallet-sized emergency ID card
A free advisory meeting with your agents (under your AHCD or POA)
A free advisory meeting with your successor trustee or executor
fn1 Transferring ownership of more than one real property to your trust will require an additional fee and payment of related third-party costs.
fn2 Plus third-party costs, if any.