Are you looking for an estate planning & trust attorney in San Francisco (Bay Area), Walnut Creek (East Bay), El Dorado Hills (Greater Sacramento) or other parts of Northern California?
You might wonder what a “trust” is and if you truly need one.
A trust is a legal instrument that allows the client (often times called a trustmaker, trustor, grantor or settlor) to entrust his/her assets’ title in the hands of a trustee (who can be the same person as the trustmaker in case of a revocable living trust) to manage the trust asset for the benefit of third-parties also known as beneficiaries. In most cases, people choose to create a living trust to avoid conservatorship and guardianship, avoid lengthy and expensive probate, and to preserve a legacy.
In California, the rule of thumb is everyone needs a trust-based estate plan unless the client (1) doesn’t own real property, (2) the total value of client’s assets doesn’t exceed $166,250, (3) doesn’t care about incapacity planning, and (4) doesn’t have any minor children. Based on this, it’s estimated that approximately 90% of California residents need to consider having a living trust.
Success through Hard Work
An estate planning lawyer, can help you create a trust to:
- Organize your estate affairs
- Structure the distribution of your assets during your life and thereafter
- Minimize the exposure to estate taxes and onerous probate fees
- Protect your estate from creditors or from divorce financial losses
- Direct the specific distribution of estate assets should the beneficiary not survive the time of the distribution which is especially helpful in families with divergent interests, second marriages, stepchildren, aggressive in-laws, etc.
- Avoid a lengthy probate court process
- Keep the distribution of your assets private
Our attorney and support personnel are dedicated to competently, zealously, and unambiguously pursue their clients’ cases. Hard work coupled with innovative solutions is our core goal.
We always strive to optimize our internal processes, so we can provide more valuable legal assistance without breaking the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
This depends on your case, and the details need to be discussed with our attorney.
A living trust is a document that you create during your lifetime (while having mental capacity) through which your property and money will be distributed after your death to your chosen heirs (aka beneficiaries) by a person that you trust (aka trustee).
Unlike a Will, a living trust doesn’t need to be probated which results in substantial savings for families (ranging between $30,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the total estate value).
A trust-based estate plans will help you avoid lengthy and expensive probate and plan for estate taxes while keeping your financial affairs private.
A Will is a document that specifies how the person wants his money and property to be distributed after his death. The person names an executor, who is responsible for distributing his assets, and heirs, who will receive his estate property. In the Will such person can also name the guardians for his minor children. Typically, Wills have to be probated in California and probate fees are calculated as a percentage of the total estate value unless the assets are distributed to the heirs through a Living Trust.
We handle virtually all cases related to our main practice area which is Estate Planning (including Trusts and Wills) and Business Law.
A complete estate plan typically includes the following:
- A Will or Revocable Living Trust (as applicable);
- A Pour-Over Will as a catchall document to transfer to the Trust after the client’s death any omitted assets;
- Guardianship Nomination for Minor Children designating both temporary and permanent guardians, and requesting the express exclusion of potential guardians (if applicable);
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney, designating someone to act on your behalf for financial matters when you are ill or otherwise incapacitated;
- Advance Health Care Directive, naming the person who could make medical decisions on your behalf if you were unable to communicate them;
- HIPPA Authorization, which allows the person chosen by you to access your confidential healthcare information;
- Trust Transfer Deed (with Accompanying Documents) for each Real Property for probate avoidance and expedited transfer of ownership to the intended beneficiaries after the client’s death;
- Trust Funding Instructions. After the creation of the living trust, it’s super important to transfer your property and money into your trust to avoid probate at death. This applies to both current assets and assets acquired by you in the future. Again, this is VITALLY IMPORTANT for a successful estate plan and the Funding Instructions will give you specific guidance on how to transfer your remaining property and money to the trust depending on such assets’ category;
- Assignment of Personal Property to transfer to your Trust all your movable tangible goods that don’t have a title document (such as cars, furniture, jewelry, collections, books, etc.);
- Assignment or Transfer of Business Interests. If you own an ownership interest in a business, such interest needs to be assigned or otherwise transferred into the trust to avoid probate court involvement when the business owner dies or becomes incapacitated.
Also, business owners might consider having a Buy-Sell Agreement for their business interest succession planning. A buy-sell agreement is a legally binding contract that stipulates how a partner’s share of a business may be reassigned or otherwise transferred if that partner dies or otherwise leaves the business.
- Remembrance & Memorial Instructions. This document gives an opportunity to share some life wisdom with your loved ones, instruct the family on your funeral preferences (including what scriptures to be read and what music to be played), etc.
The approximate fee ranges for our estate planning services are published on the following webpage. An exact estimate will be given after the first meeting.
For business law matters, we typically charge approximately $500-$800 per hour depending on the complexity of the legal matter.
You can easily schedule a free introductory Zoom meeting or phone call with our attorney at the following link.
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While most people think that they need just a will for estate planning purposes, very few realize that a will needs to be probated in California, and mandatory probate fees start at approximately $6000 up to hundreds of thousands depending on the total value of the deceased’s assets at the time of death. That being said, if a will is chosen as an estate planning tool, then to avoid probate, such will needs to be a pour-over will in addition to a living trust or needs to create a trust through its provisions instructing the will’s executor to transfer all estate assets to the trust.
By working with a trust attorney, you can create a trust focused on minimization of taxes, protection of assets, delayed distributions to the intended beneficiaries (aka heirs) and planning for your incapacity. Regardless of your planning goals, you should begin working on your estate plan early in advance while you can still make any sound decision, and any delayed planning might result in the impossibility of such planning due to a sudden critical medical condition or even death.
A trust attorney can help you tailor the distribution of the estate property and money taking into account special circumstances such as a minor beneficiary or an adult beneficiary who is not very financially responsible.
The trustees named in the trust will carry out your preferences as directed in the trust document. This is a helpful option to someone who needs to leave assets to an heir whom the trustmaker is concerned could blow the money or desires the funds to be directed for special needs or last for a longer time.
Trusts are not only for the wealthy, and in fact most Californians should at least consider having a trust.