Living Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives
What is an Estate Plan and when do you need one?
An Estate Plan, at its essence, offers you control and peace of mind
Defining an Estate Plan
In broad terms, an estate plan is a way to control your property when you die. You are able to determine who receives your property. Without an estate plan, any property you own is distributed in a way that has been predetermined by the State of California. Additionally, you can control who is involved with handling your property. You can certainly prevent an unscrupulous relative from being involved with your estate!
Estate planning at our office is composed of three steps. First, you must think about the factors involved with estate planning. We provide the legal information you need to make decisions about your estate plan, such as tax implications. Second, is making decisions about your estate plan. This requires deciding on the "who" and the "what" aspects of the estate plan. We try our best to make the process smooth by answering all questions, and laying information out in an understandable manner. The last step is actually creating the estate plan. We pride ourselves on getting the estate plan in your hands in a timely manner. We know seeing the completed estate plan is a different experience than talking about it, and questions and comments are expected at the signing meeting. But if we have done our job right, your time will be respected.
When do you need an estate plan?
In a perfect world, everyone would have an estate plan, in one form or another, during all phases of their adult lives. The reason is similar to why insurance is purchased during life: to handle the unexpected. Estate planning in fact prepares for what is inevitable and expected: passing away. Preparing and planning can go a long way to secure your wishes, save your family time and money, and make the transition as seamless as possible. If you have young children, with proper estate planing, you can nominate a guardian to take care of them in the event that you can't which can avoid unnecessary and traumatic mistakes. If you own a house, and you want your children to inherit it, a living trust could save your family tens of thousands of dollars.
Below are descriptions of the most common estate planning devices, and the role each play. Learning about them might assist you in deciding if you need an estate plan. A complete estate plan through our office includes all of the below mentioned devices.
The Living Trust
A living trust is the most common, and most important estate planning device we create for clients for two reasons. First, it permits you to control your property after you die. You name who receives your property, and how much of it. You are also able to determine who handles your affairs after you die. The second, and the most appealing aspect of a living trust is that property held in the name of the trust avoids probate. Probate is expensive. Very expensive. Tens of thousands of dollars is required to go through probate. A living trust more than holds its own in value simply because of its ability to avoid probate.
A will is arguably the most famous estate planning device. Sometimes a will is fancifully referred to as the "last will and testament." The major drawback of a will is that probate is still required. Why create a will at all then? A will directs who should receive property and who should handle your affairs after you die. You can still control your property, and for some, a will is a perfectly sufficient estate planning device.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney allows you to name a person to handle financial matters on your behalf. For example, if you need a relative to handle your banking, a financial power of attorney would permit that person to do so. Without it, a bank won't let that person touch your money. This document can be made so that it "springs," meaning that it is only effective when you lose capacity, as determined by a doctor. This gives people peace of mind that they will control their property for as long as they are able to.
Advance Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive provides someone you trust with the ability to deal with doctors and hospitals when you cannot. It is a document that states what your health care wishes are, such as whether you want life support, and who you want making health decisions on your behalf.
Our Estate Planning Philosophy
We believe in creating estate plans that are time efficient, effective, and affordable
We want you to feel welcome when you contact us, and delighted when you leave our office. Many estate planning lawyers create an intimidating or unapproachable environment through their grueling process, distant attitudes, and inflated prices. We prefer to take the opposite approach. We do this by sticking to our philosophy: efficient work, ensuring you know what you are getting, and pricing that doesn't break the bank.
We take great pride in our efficient process. We respect your time. Far too often, lawyers create unnecessary headaches by dragging the process of creating an estate plan out. They do this by using old, outdated habits, or they simply believe their time is more important than yours. We have adopted a streamlined process, designed to ensure efficiency and completeness. We want you to get an estate plan in your hands.
While our process is streamlined, we also create estate plans that are effective. Our trusts avoid probate. They also ensure you control how your property is distributed. In fact, we personally use the same estate plan for ourselves that we recommend for our clients. Additionally, we are one of the rare law firms where attorneys are the only ones who work on and review your estate plan. Many lawyers use paralegals or secretaries to draft client documents. We believe the work is too important to outsource. Besides, we like what we do.
We price our estate plans below the average. Why? Our prices reflect our belief that everyone should have an estate plan. We genuinely want you to feel like you received a great deal. It hurts our sensibilities when we hear the prices some estate planning lawyers charge. We have heard many stories of clients coming to us who were surprised to receive a quote from some different law office that was 3-4 times higher than our prices. Happily, they found us.
We are transparent about our prices (we have nothing to hide), and we will give you a quote when you contact us. We can do this because we use a predictable, flat rate fee structure. No matter how much work we do for you, or how many emails you send us, the price stays the same.
The Process of Making an Estate Plan
We have taken the feedback of past clients and have come up with a process for creating estate plans that is both efficient and effective. This is how we do it.
When you call in requesting an estate plan, we will set up an initial appointment date with you, at a time convenient for you. We conduct the initial appointment by phone or video conference. Once the date is confirmed, we will send you our estate planning questionnaire, either by email or mail. The purpose of the questionnaire is to get you thinking about your most important estate planning goals and to provide us with essential information (Don't worry, the questionnaire doesn't need to be filled out perfectly, and we won't give you a grade on its completeness).At the initial appointment, we talk about the information you provided in the questionnaire, and go into greater detail about what will best suit your needs. We also take this time to answer any and all questions you might have. Additionally, this is the time when we will discuss the benefits of having an estate plan, such as avoiding probate. We will go over price as well.
At the initial appointment, we will determine a date for you to complete the estate plan at our office. This is an in person meeting to review and sign the documents. We will work around your schedule as best we can. We also offer our estate plans to those who cannot make an in person meeting at our office work. If you are out of town, or want extra flexibility to sign the documents on your own time, we have a second option for you. Instead of an in person meeting at our office, we can mail or email the documents to you. The second option is an ideal choice for those who are comfortable getting access to a notary on their own, and for one reason or another cannot come to our office to sign. This is a good option for those who need an appointment sooner than we can offer for signing the documents, or for those who are out of town. We have For the second option, we offer a discount off the estate plan price.
If you choose the option of coming into our office, we will meet together and get the completed estate plan in your hands that day. The documents will be drafted for your signature. Of course, we will go over the documents so you know what you are receiving, and answer any questions. Once signed, the documents are notarized by our in-house notary, at no extra cost to you. Copies of the documents are made, and we prepare a binder for you with your originals in it. We keep a digital copy of the documents signed. You are then on your way. Usually, the signing meeting takes 30-60 minutes. This can be done faster if you are in a hurry. But please, don't feel rushed. We happen to enjoy talking with our clients.
If you decide you want an estate plan from us, but want us to mail or email the documents to you, then we have a time tested method of doing so. We provide you with the same documents you would have received had you come into our office. We also provide you with clear instructions on how to complete the estate plan so everything is ready to go. You will need to get the documents notarized on your own. Many of our clients have used this method for various reasons, such as living in different areas of the state. We have had great success using this method.