Estate Planning

Estate/Trust Planning and Litigation

Mr. Goehring has served the estate planning and litigation needs of clients for over 21 years.  He drafts trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and other estate related documents.  He represents clients in probate proceedings where no trust documents exist.  He represents clients in trust litigation where disputes arise over the validity of trusts, trust clauses, and trust amendments and over the conduct of trustees.  Call today and make an appointment for a free consultation.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children . . . .”  Proverbs 13:22

 

Key Terms and Concepts

Estate Planning

Estate planning involves the determination of how your assets will be managed for your benefit and ultimately distributed.
Basic Issues to Consider
• What are my assets?
• Whom do I want to receive those assets?
• Who should manage those assets if I cannot?
• Who should be responsible for taking care of my minor children if I become unable to care for them myself?
• Who should make decisions on my behalf concerning my care and welfare if I become unable to care for myself?

Revocable Living Trust

This is a written legal document that simplifies the transfer your assets to your chosen beneficiaries.

To be effective, your assets must be transferred to the trust during your lifetime, which involves careful planning (typically your home, other real estate, and some financial accounts). Most people name themselves as trustees to manage the assets during their lifetime. It is also necessary to designate a successor trustee if you become incapable of managing the trust during your lifetime and when you die. This should be someone who is capable and trustworthy. Because the trust is revocable, it may be amended or revoked at any time by the person or persons who created it. Many people set up a trust to make it easier for their beneficiaries to transfer assets when they die and avoid the expense and time involved in a probate. A trust, however, is not necessary for everyone. A person with a simple estate may be able to transfer assets without a trust or probate.

Will

A will is a legal document that becomes effective on death and directs the distribution of your assets.

Probate

Probate is the court-supervised process for transferring a deceased person’s assets to the beneficiaries listed in his or her will or if there is no will to the heirs of his or her estate.

Simpler procedures are available for transferring property to a spouse or for handling estates in which the total assets amount to less than $150,000. In some cases, personal property such as financial assets can be transferred by a simple affidavit or declaration prepared and executed in conformance with the California Probate Code. The court-supervised probate process has advantages and disadvantages. The probate court is accustomed to resolving disputes about the distribution of assets fairly quickly through a process with defined rules. In addition, the probate court reviews the personal representative’s handling of each estate, which can help protect the beneficiaries’ interests. A disadvantage is that probates are public. Your estate plan and the value of your assets will become a public record. Also, because lawyer’s fees and executor’s commissions are based on a statutory fee schedule, a probate may cost more than the management and distribution of a comparable estate under a living trust. Time can be a factor as well. A probate proceeding generally takes longer than the administration of a living trust.

Other Ways of Leaving Property

  • Property held in joint title
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Qualified or non-qualified retirement plans, including 401(k) plans and IRAs
  • Certain “trustee” bank accounts
  • Transfer on death (or TOD) securities accounts
  • Payable on death (or POD) assets

Some of these designations can have significant tax benefits and consequences for your beneficiaries.  They should be carefully coordinated with your overall estate plan.

Power of Attorney

This is a written legal document that gives another person (your agent) the right and authority to act on your behalf.

It can be limited to special circumstances or it can be general.  For instance, you can authorize your agent to simply pay your bills or handle all of your financial affairs. Unless the power of attorney is durable, the authority will end if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney, however, will remain in effect while you are incapacitated. A power of attorney is generally effective immediately upon execution (giving your agent the power to act for you right away), unless you set it up as a springing power of attorney that would only become effective at a specified future date or event, such as loss of capacity established by the declaration of one or more doctors. A power of attorney expires upon death. Make sure that you understand all of the terms before signing a power of attorney and be certain that your chosen agent is both capable and trustworthy.

Advance Health Care Directive

This document allows you to designate someone to make health care decisions for you if you become incapable of making those decisions.