Specializing in estate plans for individuals and families
An estate plan allows you to direct where your assets will go when you pass away. Without a plan, the State of California makes this choice for you. Even if you are happy with the way your assets would pass under the laws of California, putting a plan in place spares your family and friends the hassle, time, and expense required to probate an estate. Additional benefits can include asset protection for beneficiaries and the full realization of the potential benefits of the estate tax exemption. For families with young children, however, the most important reason for creating an estate plan is to give you peace of mind that your children will be cared for in a manner consistent with your wishes.
While your individual set of circumstances will determine the structure that will best fit your needs, the typical estate plan consists of a combination of the following customized documents:
The revocable trust, also known as a living trust or a family trust, can be thought of as a bucket that holds title to the vast majority of your assets. Since a revocable trust is a see-through entity, during your life it is treated no differently than you as the creator of the trust. Assets can easily be placed in and taken out of the name of the trust, and the trust can be amended or revoked at any time. At death, the assets held in the trust can go directly to the beneficiaries in a manner designated by the trust and need not be probated.
A pourover will directs all of your probate assets to be given to your revocable trust so that the assets are distributed according to the terms of the trust. Though the trust essentially does the heavy lifting by directing where assets should go, your pourover will is necessary to ensure that assets not transferred to your trust during your life are still transferred to your intended beneficiaries.
While the pourover will and trust together direct the disposition of assets at your death, this document designates a person or group of people (“agents”) to make decisions regarding your financial affairs and non-trust assets if you lose capacity and are unable to make these decisions for yourself during your life.
This document designates a person or a group of people (“health care agents”) to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The document can include specific guidance to your agents under specific circumstances and can also be used to direct how you would like to be treated after you pass away.
A guardianship nomination is important for any family with young children. This document provides you with the opportunity to express to others how you would like your children to be raised in the event that you are unable to care for them yourself. By clearly laying out your wishes, this document is essential for reducing or eliminating the conflict that can arise around the well-being of your children if you are no longer able to care for them.