It is commonly believed that only the wealthy need to worry about an estate plan. In California, nothing could be further from the truth. Due to the hopeless backlog of cases and exorbitant costs of our probate court system, anyone with assets and people that they care about should have a carefully crafted and complete estate plan or they run the risk of burdening their loved ones, reducing their wealth or even having their assets wind up passing to those they did not intend to receive them.
At Castro Law, we take these concerns seriously and our attorneys work closely with our clients to assemble a customized estate plan that honors their final wishes and protects their loved ones from the stress of unnecessary taxes, fees, and complicated court proceedings.
The elements of a complete estate plan include:
A will is a fairly simple document which can set forth your inheritance plan and other wishes, but it will not avoid the probate process. There are situations where a will may be enough to meet your objectives, but often more is required. A complete estate plan will involve a group of other documents and strategies to effectuate your wishes, avoid probate delays and costs, protect your loved ones and assets, and plan for handling your business affairs and health care decisions should ever become incapacitated.
Revocable Living Trusts and Funding of Trusts
A revocable living trust is usually the cornerstone of most thorough estate plans. When properly structured and funded, a trust will allow you to avoid probate, maintain privacy over your estate affairs, control when and how your assets are passed to your heirs, and accommodate any special needs situations that may need to be addressed. There is an almost infinite variety of trusts and trust provisions designed to address these unique concerns.
Durable Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document that allows you to choose your representative and the powers that they will have to handle your business affairs in the event that you become incapacitated mentally or physically. The document can be drafted to convey immediate power if you need assistance at the time of its drafting or to only give power to your representative in the event that you are adjudged to be incapacitated by your doctors or a court of law. The latter type is the most common and it is called a “springing” power of attorney. If you do not have a durable power of attorney in place, your family may need to seek a conservatorship which would require the cost, delay and aggravation of going to probate court.
Advanced Health Care Directives
An advanced health care directive is a legal document that allows you to choose your representative and the powers that they will have to make health care decisions on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated. The document sets forth your beliefs and desires regarding such topics as; prolonging life by artificial means, nutrition/hydration, pain medication and even post-death decisions like autopsies, organ donation and disposition of remains. Advanced health care directives are sometimes also referred to as living wills, advance directives, or medical directives.
For those with more substantial assets or complicated business involvements, it may be necessary to do specific planning to protect assets from creditors or liability. To that end, we offer a range of services and methods to accomplish these goals. This may be essential to protect your interests while you are living, or to protect your loved one’s inheritance from the cost of probate court, creditors, and estate taxes.
Trust administration services are provided post-death to assist the personal representative of an estate in handling the estate administration and fulfilling their professional duties. Being an executor of a will, or successor trustee of a trust creates a legal duty to administer the estate and distribute the assets in accordance with the appropriate laws and practices for the protection of the beneficiaries. There are some situations where this can be accomplished without the assistance of an attorney, but many estate representatives are grateful for some counsel and guidance in the fulfillment of their duties. Typically, any legal costs for these services are covered by the estate or the trust being administered and do not involve personal cost to the estate representative.
As you can see, much of the estate planning process depends on your personal family situation and individual needs. An initial consultation with us is free and involves no obligation to hire us. We would be honored to get to know you and to help you plan for these critical life events. We can review your situation and walk you through your options.
Call us today for a free consultation: (888) 560-2743