Want to get your affairs in order? We offer comprehensive estate planning services ranging from simple wills for clients with modest assets to complex trust arrangements for clients with large estates.
While the features of each plan are different, there are certain things we do every time, for every client:
- We charge for most estate plans on a flat or estimated fee basis, and don’t charge for the initial interview. Also, we put each plan on a schedule. This way, you know what the plan will cost before you order it and you know when you will get it – no excuses.
- We do a short summary of your plan that tells you in plain language what your plan provides – who gets what (and when), who is going to act as executor/trustee, who is going to be the health care agent and so on. Our goal is to make sure that you understand it. If you don’t, we don’t want you to sign it.
- We make sure that your plan covers all of your assets, not just those that would be placed in a trust or disposed of by will. So, for example, we look at the beneficiary designations on your IRAs and 401(k) accounts, your insurance policies, annuities, pay-on-death accounts and joint tenancy assets so that all of your assets, regardless of how held, pass to your beneficiaries in a coordinated and cost-effective manner.
- We provide free document custody service after the estate plan is signed. Your documents are imaged for electronic storage in our system, the paper originals are lodged in our fire-rated files and you get a copy of everything for your records. After all, what good are estate planning documents if your executor can’t find them when the time comes?
We believe that the end result of a good estate plan is peace of mind – yours. We do our best to be sure that every plan we deliver, regardless of its size or complexity, meets that goal.
Estate Settlements/Living Trusts/Probates
Has there been a death in the family? If so, we can assist those left behind in settling the affairs of the decedent and transferring his (or her) assets to the people entitled to inherit them in a timely and cost-effective way. Since these situations are often stressful for survivors, we make every effort to handle these matters in a way that protects the executor or trustee while keeping peace in the family.
Where the decedent had a will, we counsel the executor on whether assets can be transferred without probate or whether a court probate is required. Where probate is needed we prepare all documents that need to be filed with the court, such as petitions, accountings and so forth and render ongoing advice to the executor regarding his or her duties as administrator of the estate.
Where the decedent had a living trust, we advise the successor trustee on his or her duties – filing the will, giving notices of administration, getting appraisals and filing tax returns, to name a few.
Contrary to popular belief, living trusts do not automatically settle themselves – in fact, as pointed out in our article, Settling the Revocable Trust in California, trust settlements are very much like traditional probates except that they happen out of court rather than in court and are faster and cheaper than probate, all else being equal. Our task is to make sure that everything that is supposed to happen actually happens, and at reasonable cost in a reasonable amount of time.
Our services in these matters are closely coordinated with other professional advisors, including accountants, financial advisors, real estate brokers and others as needed. Transfer tax reporting and asset allocations, for example, are typically reviewed in advance with the accountant who will prepare final income tax returns for the decedent and fiduciary returns for the estate.
To learn more about our approach to estate plan design see “Client Driven Estate Planning,” [State Bar of California, Trusts and Estates Quarterly (Summer 2003)]. For PDF document, click here.