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Estate Planning

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Estate Planning​

It is a good idea to have an estate plan. A living trust can be a part of this and is a valuable part of estate planning. One can make managing assets easier should the estate owner become ill, disabled, or less able to manage the estate due to age. A detailed plan can avoid estate litigation or at the very least provide a blueprint for managing or distributing assets to intended beneficiaries. Estate planning can ensure the decedent’s wishes are carried out. It also helps minimize issues that complicate the probate process. When the fine details are laid out in the will, it’s less likely that heirs will file lawsuits or potential beneficiaries are overlooked in the probate process. Even if you have a spouse with a right of survivorship, an estate plan can be created; Our estate planning team can assist you in determining the best options.

What Is Estate Planning? 

Estate planning is the preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual's asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death.

 

Estate Planning Explained

Estate planning involves planning for how an individual’s assets will be preserved, managed, and distributed after death.  It also takes into account the management of an individual’s properties and financial obligations in the event that they become incapacitated.

Assets that could make up an individual’s estate include houses, cars, stocks, paintings, life insurance, pensions, and debt. Individuals have various reasons for planning an estate, such as preserving family wealth, providing for surviving spouse and children, funding children and/or grandchildren’s education, or leaving their legacy behind to a charitable cause. 

 

The most basic step in estate planning involves writing a will. Other major estate planning tasks include:

  •  Limiting estate taxes by setting up trust accounts in the name of beneficiaries

  • Establishing a guardian for living dependents

  • Naming an executor of the estate to oversee the terms of the will

  • Creating/updating beneficiaries on plans such as life insurance, IRAs and 401(k)s

  • Setting up funeral arrangements

  • Establishing annual gifting to qualified charitable and non-profit organizations to reduce the taxable estate

  • Setting up a durable power of attorney (POA) to direct other assets and investments

 

Writing a Will

A document directing who will receive your property after death, a will names representatives or executors to oversee this process, guardians to care for dependents, and conservators to manage property for them. Wills can name trustees of property and even caretakers for pets. However, a will does not transfer non-probate property such as real estate owned with rights of survivorship.

 

Living Trusts

 Also called a revocable living trust, a living trust is created while you are alive and can be revised at any time. You can amend the trust if you wish to appoint a different beneficiary or trustee. If you decide you don’t like the agreement, you can revoke it or change the terms and reinstate the trust. A revocable living trust is similar to a will, albeit more flexible.

 

Advance Health Care Directives

A type of estate plan, an advance health care directive reveals your preferences to the type of care to receive if you become incapacitated. The directive can specify who makes vital health care decisions for you, whether you designate a spouse, other family member, or friend. It can indicate procedures this agent cannot authorize. Also, the agreement is indefinite unless you specify a termination date or revoke the directive.

Durable Power of Attorney

A document that appoints an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. The powers this agent has are clearly stated in the document. It can authorize them to deposit funds to a bank account, write checks, or make financial decisions for a business. Powers of attorney expire upon your death, so you should appoint a trusted agent/representative. 

 

The authenticity of a will is determined through a legal process known as probate. Probate is the first step taken in administering the estate of a deceased person and distributing assets to the beneficiaries. When an individual dies, the custodian of the will must take the will to the probate court or to the executor named in the will within 30 days of the death of the testator. The probate process is a court-supervised procedure in which the authenticity of the will left behind is proven to be valid and accepted as the true last testament of the deceased. The court officially appoints the executor named in the will, which, in turn, gives the executor the legal power to act on behalf of the deceased.

 

Appointing the Right Executor

The legal personal representative or executor approved by the court is responsible for locating and overseeing all the assets of the deceased. The executor has to estimate the value of the estate by using either the date of death value or the alternative valuation date, as provided in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

 

A list of assets that need to be assessed during probate include retirement accounts, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate property, jewelry, and any other items of value. Most assets that are subject to probate administration come under the supervision of the probate court in the place where the decedent lived at death. The exception is real estate. You must probate real estate in the county in which it’s located.

 

The executor also has to pay off any taxes and debt owed by the deceased from the estate. Creditors usually have a limited amount of time from the date they were notified of the testator’s death to make any claims against the estate for money owed to them. Claims that are rejected by the executor can be taken to court where a probate judge will have the final say on whether or not the claim is valid.

 

The executor is also responsible for filing the final personal income tax returns on behalf of the deceased. Any estate taxes that are pending will come due within nine months of the date of death. After the inventory of the estate has been taken, the value of assets calculated, and taxes and debt paid off, the executor will then seek authorization form the court to distribute whatever is left of the estate to the beneficiaries.

 

Planning for Estate Taxes

Federal and/or state taxes applied on an estate can considerably reduce its value before asset distribution is made to beneficiaries. Death can result in large liabilities for the family, necessitating generational transfer strategies that can reduce, eliminate, or postpone tax payments.

 

During the estate planning process, there are significant steps that individuals and married couples can take to reduce the impact of these taxes. For instance, married couples can set up an AB trust that divides into two after the death of the first spouse. Or a grandfather may encourage his grandchildren to seek college or advanced degrees and, therefore, transfer assets to an entity for the purpose of current or future education funding.

 

That may be a much more tax-efficient move as opposed to dying, having those assets transferred, and finally having the same assets fund college when the beneficiaries are of college age. The latter may trigger multiple tax events that can severely limit the amount of funding available to the kids.

 

Another strategy an estate planner can take to minimize the estate’s tax liability after death is by giving to charitable organizations while alive. The gifts reduce the financial size of the estate since they are excluded from the taxable estate, thus, lowering the estate tax bill. As a result, the individual has a lower effective cost of giving, which provides additional incentive to make those gifts. And of course, an individual may wish to make charitable contributions to a variety of causes. Estate planners can work with the donor in order to reduce taxable income as a result of those contributions and/or formulate strategies that maximize the effect of those donations.

 

Estate freezing is also a strategy that can be taken to limit death taxes. It involves an individual locking in the current value and thus, tax liability, of his or her property, while attributing the value of future growth of that capital property to another person. Any increase that occurs in the value of the assets in the future is transferred to the benefit of another person, such as a spouse, child, or grandchild. This method involves freezing the value of an asset at its value on the date of transfer. Accordingly, the amount of potential capital gain at death is also frozen, allowing the estate planner to estimate his or her potential tax liability on death and better plan for the payment of income taxes.

 

Using Life Insurance in Estate Planning

Life insurance serves as a source to pay death taxes, pay expenses, fund business buy-sell agreements, and fund retirement plans. If sufficient insurance proceeds are available and the policies are properly structured, any income tax arising on the deemed dispositions of assets following the death of an individual can be paid without resorting to the sale of assets. Proceeds from life insurance that are received by the beneficiaries upon the death of the insured are generally income tax-free. Estate planning is an ongoing process and should be started as soon as one has any measurable asset base. As life progresses and goals shift, the estate plan should shift in line with new goals. Lack of adequate estate planning can cause undue financial burdens to loved ones (estate taxes can run higher than 40%), so at the very least a will should be set up even if the taxable estate is not large.

Revocable Living Trust

A trust can prevent the probate process, get your assets to your loved ones much more efficiently, and has other benefits during your life as well.

Estate Packages:

Single Persons Revocable Living Trust $1260.00

Senior Person 60-up $1160.00

Military Single person $1160.00 

Includes:  

Living Trust

Pour Over Will

Certificate of Trust

Power Of Attorney 

Healthcare Directive 

HIPPA 

Burial Instructions

Recording (Please ask for more information)

1 Trust Transfer Deed ($75 for each additional property) 

Personalized Trust Binder.

Does Not Include County Recorder or Notary Fees.

Married/Couples Revocable Living Trust $1460.00

Senior Married/Couple  60-up $1260.00

Military Married/Couple $1200.00 

Includes:  

Living Trust

Certificate of Trust

Pour Over Will (for both husband and wife/couple)

 Power Of Attorney (for both husband and wife/couple)

Healthcare Directive (for both husband and wife/couple)

HIPPA (for both husband and wife/couple)

Burial Instructions (for both husband and wife/couple)

Recording (Please ask for more information)

1 Trust Transfer Deed ($75 for each additional property)

Personalized Trust Binder.

Does Not Include County Recorder or Notary Fees.

Estate Planning Document Preparation

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person’s life, for the management and disposal of that person’s estate during the person’s life and at and after death, while minimizing gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and income tax. Estate planning includes planning for incapacity as well as a process of reducing or eliminating uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximizing the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses.

Special Needs Trust $80

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) allows for a disabled person to maintain his or her eligibility for public assistance benefits, despite having assets that would otherwise make the person ineligible for those benefits. There are two types of SNTs: First Party and Third Party funded

Pour-Over-Will

A pour-over will can help the family and beneficiaries of the testator's will avoid probate on non-trust assets by transferring them into the trust's care after the testator dies. If the value of the pour-over assets does not exceed California's statutory limits for trust funds, the assets will not move into probate.

 

Durable Power Of Attorney Only $100

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the power to act on behalf of someone else. California Durable Power of Attorney allows the agent to make all financial decisions for the principal, even if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Healthcare Directive Only $100

The California Health Care Decisions Law, effective July 1, 2000, consolidated previous advance directives into the new Health Care Directive (AHCD). Advance health care directives allow you to have legal control over your health care treatment in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. 

 

HIPPA Waiver Only $75

An authorization is a detailed document that gives covered entities permission to use protected health information for specified purposes, which are generally other than treatment, payment, or health care operations, or to disclose protected health information to a third party specified by the individual.

Trust Deed Transfers Only $75

Each Property Must Be Transferred Into the Living Trust, Once The Trust Has Been Created.  If you have more than one property, we charge per deed thereafter. Price Does Not Include County Recorder Fees, Government Fees, Per Property Transfer Deed.

Grant Deed/Quitclaim Deed  $75

Grant Deed: 

Can be used when property is being sold from one person to another, or to transfer real property into a living trust.

 

Quitclaim Deed:

 A quitclaim deed can be used for the transfer of real property in California of an unrecorded or recorded interest from a grantor to a grantee.

Affidavit of Death of Joint Tenant $150

Avoid probate and  the expense of a Living Trust. If you are the only owner, or if your co-owner has already passed away, your beneficiary will receive the property. In order to put their name on the title, they notarize and record a simple form called Affidavit of Death of Transferor under TOD Deed, along with a death certificate.

 

Trust Reprint $75

Trust Amendment $50 an hour

Stock LLC/Corp Assignment  $200

Copy of Trust on Thumb Drive $75

Because we are not lawyers, we cannot offer legal advice or represent you in court. If you need legal advise or representation in court we can refer you to an attorney, within our network. The attorney will provide a discounted price for legal representation, when referred by us.

Our focus is to provide local paralegal services to the public and attorneys in the area. We strive to simplify the difficulty of legal documents for you. We take care of the document preparation so that you know the documents are completed properly from the start.

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