Estate Planning is probably the most important legal planning you can undertake. A complete plan should include decisions regarding your death as well as many decisions and actions taken during your life. Having a comprehensive plan in place will make settlement, administration and finalization of your estate less difficult for those left behind and minimize any taxes that may apply.

In the absence of an estate plan, California intestacy laws will determine who receives your property which in many cases can be contrary to your wishes and significantly limit the options of providing for your loved ones. Furthermore, failure to enact a plan will increase the expense of administration and possibly incur taxes that could be reduced or eliminated all together.

A thorough plan should address the following issues:

  • Owning, managing and transferring of your property during life
  • The transfer of your property upon death
  • Minimization or elimination of the Gift Tax, Estate Tax and Generation Skipping Tax
  • Planning for incapacity and health care decision making
  • Avoidance of Probate and reduction or elimination of involvement of the  Courts
  • Business succession planning
  • Identification and selection of personal representatives
  • Planning for distribution of retirement benefits
  • Non probate transfers
  • Analysis of separate property, community property and quasi-community property concerns
  • Funding of the plan
  • Charitable giving

Your plan should be tailored to your specific objectives after careful consideration in consultation with a qualified attorney. No family situation is the same and even though many plan documents are common to each situation the mechanics, processes, gifts and administration of each plan will vary based on your wishes, family needs, dynamics and capabilities. At a minimum your plan should include the following documents:

  • Will
  • Revocable Trust
  • Power of Attorney
  • Advance Health Care Directive
  • Nominations of Conservator and Guardian

Larger or more complex estates may include:

  • Irrevocable Trusts
  • Buy/Sell Agreements
  • Family Limited Partnerships
  • Business succession planning
  • Special needs trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trust

Creating a deliberate and effective estate plan is something that everyone should have, from those with a small estate to the very large. A minimal amount of effort put forth today will ensure that your family is provided for, uncertainty is eliminated and your legacy is honored.