What is estate planning?
Estate planning means putting your personal and financial affairs in order with coordinated documents, including Trusts, Wills, and Powers of Attorney that contain directions for managing property during life and distributing it upon death. It starts with lawyer consultation and property organization so estate plan documents will match your personal situation and balance tax effect with your intentions concerning your property.

What is a revocable living trust?
A revocable living trust is an agreement made during life that you make with yourself concerning your property. As an individual “Settlor”  or as joint “Settlors”, you provide directions for management and distribution of your property that you transfer to yourself as “Trustee”  or joint “Trustees” (this is called “funding” the trust). As “Trustee” you manage property transferred into the Trust for your “Beneficiaries”. You or both of you are the Trust Beneficiary during life; those you designate to receive trust property after you die are the final trust beneficiaries.  Big advantages are: Properly drafted trusts permit your estate to avoid high-cost and time-consuming Probate proceedings and maintain your privacy (Probate records are public records; Revocable Trusts are private).

What is a pour-over will?
A pour-over will is a Will with special features. First, it “pours-over” any property not transferred into your revocable living trust into the trust to help avoid probate. Second, if your revocable living trust is void or unenforceable, it avoids intestacy (dying without a will) by turning the trust provisions into your will provisions. It functions as a safety net.

What is a durable power of attorney for Assets?
A durable power of attorney is a power of attorney that is “durable” because it remains effective during the life of the person who creates it even if that person becomes incapacitated. It functions as an alternative to a public, expensive and embarrassing Conservatorship Proceeding in Probate Court. It permits the Agent you appoint to manage your personal and business affairs if you become incapacitated or travel for extended periods.

What is a nomination of conservator?
A nomination of conservator is a written request for the Court to appoint your durable power of attorney  Agents as your conservator if a Court-ordered conservatorship is required.

What is a nomination of guardian?
A nomination of guardian is a written request to the Court. It explains who you want as guardian of your minor children in case of your death or incapacity, why you want them, and who you do not want to serve as guardian. Although not binding on the Court, in a Guardianship Proceeding it gives the Probate Court guidance about your wishes.

Do I avoid probate if I have a will?
No.  Unless your estate is small and does not contain real property, your estate will go through Probate.

What about do-it-yourself forms?
We don’t recommend them. “One size fits all” documents bypass planning, which is an important part of the process for personalized trusts. It is costly to correct mistakes, and some  cannot be corrected. Common mistakes include property transfers that unnecessarily cause property reassessment and higher taxes, unfunded or improperly funded trusts, outdated trust provisions, and errors concerning titled and other properties that pass outside of trust by operation of law, contract or beneficiary designation.

Is estate planning cost effective?
Estate Planning is planning ahead rather than reacting. It requires investment of your time and payment of lawyer fees. Having a solid plan relieves anxiety and it makes financial sense because the cost of having a proper estate plan in place is considerably less than the cost associated with a defective plan and Probate. Probate fees for a $500,000 gross estate value (no discount for loans or set-offs) are $26,000 for combined executor’s and attorney’s fees. For an estate with a gross value of $1,000,000, combined fees are $46,000. Also, the Court can award additional fees for so-called extraordinary services.

What if I have unanswered questions?
Call us at 415-461-3133.

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