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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a process of planning ahead for your death. Proper estate planning helps your loved ones transfer your assets, appoints guardians for your young children, and may help you leave more money to your loved ones.
What Does A Proper Estate Plan Include?

A proper estate plan to provide for the needs of your family may include:

  • A Will
  • An Advanced Health Care Directive
  • A Durable Power of Attorney
  • A Revocable Living Trust

When Should An Estate Plan Be Reviewed?

If you already have an estate plan, it should not be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every two-three years but, usually when there is a major change in your life, you should consider updating your estate planning documents. Some of the major life changes include:

  • Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary;
  • Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary;
  • Purchase or sale of a business;
  • Change of residence;
  • Change in tax law

Do I need a will?

If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you need a will.

  • Do you care who gets your property if you die
  • Do you care who gets your money if you die?
  • Do you care who is appointed guardian of your minor children if you die?
  • Do you care how you are buried?
  • Do you have an opinion about how long you would like to stay on artificial life support? (Learn more…)

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document which allows you to give instructions to be carried out after your death. (Learn more…)

What Happens If You Die Without A Will?

Dying without a will, is also known as dying “intestate.” If you die intestate, California law will determine who the beneficiaries of your estate are, and how much they will receive. For most estates, dying without a will requires that the assets go through probate.
(Learn more…)

What is a living trust?

A living trust is a written legal document often used for estate planning purposes.
(Learn more…)

One of the main benefits of a living trust is that they can facilitate a smooth and quick transfer of assets upon death.

What are the benefits of a living trust?

A revocable living trust is beneficial because:

  • It can help ensure that your assets are transferred quickly and easily upon your death without having to go through the time consuming and expensive probate process. Learn more about probate here.
  • It can also help to ensure that your assets will be managed according to your wishes in the event you become incapacitated
  • Revocable living trusts generally remain private, whereas wills often become a part of public record.
  • Trusts allow you to dictate how your assets are used and give you flexibility in carrying out your wishes. For example, you can specify how you want your money to be spent in case you are incapacitated, such as defining the nursing facility you want to be in.
  • Can be used to hold assets in trust for young children until they mature

Will a living trust help reduce the estate taxes?

No. While a living trust may contain provisions that can postpone, reduce or even eliminate estate taxes, similar provisions could be placed in a will to accomplish the same tax planning.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal proceeding that takes place when someone dies. (Learn more…)

How long does probate take?

Under California law, probate must be completed by the personal representative within one year from the date of appointment, unless s/he files a federal estate tax return. If federal estate tax return is filed, the personal representative has up to 18 months to complete probate.
Some situations can increase the time of probate, such as situations where the beneficiaries are difficult to locate, where there is a Will contest, or the estate is very large and complex. In these types of cases, probate cases take years to resolve.
(Learn more…)

How much does probate cost?

The cost of probate is set by state law. In general, the costs of probate range from 4% to 7% of the total estate value, but can go higher depending on the amount of work that needs to be done by the personal representative and the size of the estate.
(Learn more…)

What Other Probate Avoiding Techniques Are There in Addition to Living Trusts?

The following methods are often used to avoid probate (sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it is counterproductive): joint tenancy title, community property title, bank account trusts, pay on death accounts, life insurance proceeds, retirement proceeds (IRA’S, TSA’S, 401K’s, etc.), retirement plans, gifts made during life, revocable grant deeds. Each technique has its own ramifications for tax and other issues. As with everything else, there can be no “one right way” in all situations.