Estate Planning Basics

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Answers from an Experiences California Trust Attorney about California Trusts, Will and Estate Planning

  1. What is estate planning?
    Estate planning is a method by which you provide for the distribution of your assets on your death.
  2. What if I do not plan my estate?
    If you do not plan your estate by setting up a trust during your lifetime and your estate exceeds $150,000.00 in value including up to $20,000.00 worth of real property in California then your heirs will have to go through probate proceedings.
  3. Who will benefit from estate planning?
    Anyone who has assets of value will benefit from estate, even if your net worth is less than $150,000 and you own real property valued at less than $20,000.
  4. What are the benefits of estate planning?
    Estate planning is the process of making sure that your assets will go where you want them to go at the lowest possible expense to your estate and your beneficiaries.
  5. When is the best time to prepare an estate plan?
    Life is finite. If you own or are buying your home, if you have money in the bank, or if you have investments, there is no better time than now. If you become mentally incapacitated to the extent that you cannot clearly express your wishes, it will be too late to set up your own estate plan.
  6. What are the estate planning documents that need to be prepared?
    The following documents are usually prepared: If you have a small estate (under $100,000), a simple will is probably be sufficient. If you have a larger estate or you have real property worth more than $20,000, you will probably want to have a revocable trust in addition to a will. You will also need an advance health care directive and a durable power of attorney. These documents are explained below in more detail.
  7. Who should prepare these documents?
    These documents are best prepared by an attorney who specializes in preparing these documents. We appreciate the opportunity to prepare your estate documents. We handle estate planning for individuals, married couples and domestic partners living in California. If you live outside of California, you should consult with your State or County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service.
  8. How much should the planning of my estate cost?
    This depends upon a number of things, such as the number of properties you own and the complexity of your estate plan. Call us now for a free quote.
  9. Do you accept credit cards?
    Yes. Visa, MasterCard and American Express.
  10. Is all this confidential?
    All confidential communications between you and your lawyers are protected by law and will not be disclosed to third parties without your written permission.
  11. How do I get started?
    You pay a deposit either by credit card or check and we will then send you (by e-mail or U.S. Mail) a questionnaire to complete and return with copies of your property tax bills and the deeds to your real property. If you cannot find your deed or deeds we can order them for you as long as your properties have street addresses and are in California. We will not charge the balance to your credit card until we complete your estate planning documents. You can put title to real property located in other states into your trust, but you will need counsel in the other state to help in preparing and recording those out-of-state deeds.
  12. Will we need to meet in person?
    No. Our offices are located in Southern California and we welcome your office visit. If it is inconvenient for you to come to our offices then we can prepare the documents and mail them to you with instructions for signing.
  13. Once I establish my trust, will my assets automatically be in my trust.
    Yes and no. We will prepare an inventory of your assets to attach to your trust. It is best to actually transfer title to your assets to your trust. We will advise you on this.
  14. Will my trust require a tax identification number and have to file income tax returns?
    No, as long is your trust is revocable, no trust income tax returns are required and you social security number will be the tax identification number for your trust. After your death, the successor trustee may have to obtain a tax identification number.
  15. What are the purposes of each of the estate planning documents that are prepared?
    Here are some brief explanations:

    1. Revocable Trust
      A revocable trust, which is also know as a living trust or an inter vivos trust is the primary estate planning tool. It allows you great flexibility in the distribution of your assets on your death, including the power to keep the trust intact after your death for the benefit of adults or minors. You can also provide in the trust for developmentally disabled minor and adult children. Sometimes a “special needs trust” will have to be irrevocable. A revocable trust may be amended or revoked by you at any time while you are still alive. With a revocable trust you avoid the expense of probate administration, which in California includes attorney fees and personal representative fees based on the gross value of the estate, and court fees. The court fees include filing fees, appraisal fees, and publication fees (required on probate matters to give notice to the heirs). As part of our services to you, we also provide you with a summary of the trust and a trust certification to show to your bank and the managers of your investments. We will provide you with written instructions on how to transfer your assets to your trust.
    2. Will
      A will may be suitable in a small estate. In an estate where a revocable trust is prepared, a will is also prepared to “pour over” assets, the title to which have not been placed into the trust for some reason.
    3. Durable Power of Attorney
      A durable power of attorney allows someone to take care of your financial affairs, including paying your bills should be become disabled. The power of attorney can be immediate or subject to your doctor finding that you are disabled. This may help avoid costly conservatorship proceedings in the event of your disability.
    4. Advance Health Care Directive.
      This is a document commonly known in some other states as a “living will.” This document allows you to express your wishes as to whom should make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. These decisions are made by your health care agent, in consultation with your treating doctor.

Call us now on our Toll-Free line (800) 997-8348 for a free initial consultation.