There are several documents that make up an estate plan for most people, but the often ignored (and much more important) piece of the puzzle is the advice and strategy that goes into creating those documents. Many people have the common misconception that estate planning documents only become relevant after you pass away, and that they are cookie-cutter documents that can apply to everyone equally. However, any experienced estate planning attorney in San Diego will tell you that your estate planning documents can make certain situations easier to manage for your loved ones both during your lifetime and after, and that they absolutely should be tailored to your unique set of circumstances. Regardless of how old you are, what level of wealth you have achieved, or how simple/complex your family dynamics are, we strongly recommend that you have an estate plan in order as a way both to protect certain assets and reduce the possibility of stress or frustration for your family members.
How Our Estate Planning Lawyers in San Diego Can Help You Create Your Estate Plan
Our estate planning attorneys in San Diego can help you to draft and execute the following documents as part of your basic estate plan, and when appropriate add in other techniques and devices to build a more robust plan:
- Last Will & Testament
A Last Will & Testament designates both who you wish to manage the details of your estate as well as who you would like to have receive your assets when you pass away. Our estate planning attorneys in San Diego will go over your options and designations with you so you have the peace of mind of knowing that your estate will be administered according to your wishes.
- Guardianship Nomination for Minor Children
A Guardianship Nomination is how we designate who we wish to raise and care for our children in the event something happens to us prior to the child turning 18. There are a few different considerations that should go into choosing your Guardians, and there’s a proper place for the Guardianship nomination to be made. Our San Diego estate planning attorneys will expertly guide you on what the best way to structure your nominations is, and will put together an overall plan to provide for your children in the best way possible.
- Revocable Living Trust
The probate process in California can be time consuming and costly which is why our team does everything that we can to put a plan in place to help your family avoid probate after your death. A revocable living trust is a powerful estate planning tool that can help to avoid the probate process while still distributing your estate according to your designations. It’s important to remember, though, that all trusts are not created equal and this should not be a boilerplate form that just has your named slapped on it. Our estate planning attorneys will ensure that your revocable living trust is properly customized to your needs on key points that vary from one family to another.
- Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is an example of an estate planning document that is used during life and gives you the opportunity to designate a person to make financial decisions on your behalf. There are several different parameters that you can place within this document. For example, we can draft it in such a way so that this document only takes effect when you are not long able to make financial or personal decisions for yourself, or we can give someone power to assist you immediately, depending on what makes the most sense in your case. Having a power of attorney in place can help to avoid a conservatorship which is a formal court process of appointing someone to manage your affairs (and something that you certainly want to try and avoid your family having to go through if at all possible!).
- Health Care Directive
A health care directive is a document that will provide instructions to both your family and doctors regarding your wishes for medical care if you’re unable to verbalize these wishes on your own. For example, if you’re injured in a car accident and you’re unable to speak, your health care directive will indicate the level of care that you wish to receive during this period of time.
Questions to Ask Our Estate Planning Attorneys in San Diego
As part of your initial consultation with our estate planning attorneys in San Diego, we will also take the time to answer any questions that you may have about either our team or the estate planning process. Here are a couple of example questions that we regularly receive from clients during their initial consultation:
- Why can’t I put together estate planning documents by myself?
It’s important to remember that the laws associated with trusts and probate are continuously changing. As a result, you always want to collaborate with an estate and trust attorney who is up to date on these changes so that there is limited possibility of a long, drawn out court battle among your beneficiaries. Using the services of a qualified estate planning attorney is also the ONLY way to know for sure that your documents will actually work when they are needed. There is no option to test an Estate Plan ahead of time, so you must be certain that the plan you put together will actually achieve the intended goal when put to the ultimate test. Finally, remember that documents are only part of the equation. An estate planning attorney is the only qualified professional to give you actual legal advice that the plan you are creating is the right fit for you, that the parts and pieces of your plan fit your circumstances, and that your plan will stand the test of time. We almost never leave a consultation without a client saying “I hadn’t thought of that”, and that’s a scary comment if attempting to put together a plan on your own.
- How long does the process of working with your firm take?
Our estate planning attorneys understand the important role that these documents can play in your life which is why we work quickly and efficiently to draft them for you. The entire process takes approximately three to four weeks from the time that you initially meet with us to the time that you sign your documents. We also understand that not everyone will get their Estate Plan in place ahead of time. If you find yourself in a situation where a rushed plan is needed, please call our office. Whenever possible we will turn around your Estate Plan as quickly as possible to meet a looming health concern, sometimes in as little as 1-3 days. If our office cannot accommodate your timeline given our caseload at that time, we will do whatever we can to get you in touch with another qualified colleague in our area who can assist.
- What happens if I pass away and I don’t have an estate plan in place?
Unfortunately, if you pass away without an estate plan in place, your beneficiaries will likely be forced to go through the probate process and expend unnecessary time, money, and headache along the way. Also, there is a possibility that estranged family members may be named as beneficiaries of your estate, regardless of your intent or relationship quality while you were alive. The best thing that you can do to avoid this is work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your assets are left to the people that you want them to be left to, and in a way that’s most beneficial to them.
Keep in mind that we also assist clients through the probate or trust administration process. This takes place after your loved one has passed away. Whether we helped your friend or family member in creating their documents or these documents were done by another lawyer, our estate planning attorneys in San Diego can help you to navigate through this time consuming and often overwhelming process. This experience in carrying out the actual administrative processes also helps us to constantly hone our Estate Planning documents and techniques to ensure we’re delivering the best possible plans to our Estate Planning clients.
Why Choose Our Estate Planning Lawyers?
Our services are 100% client-focused, which means that we can easily satisfy all of your estate planning needs. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why you want to determine your goals and expectations ahead of time. When you decide to retain our services, we can begin drawing up a wide range of estate planning documents, which include:
- Last Will & Testaments
- Living Trusts
- Beneficiary Designations
- Advanced Healthcare Directives
- HIPAA Releases
- Guardianship Nominations
- Assignments of Business Interests
- Trust Transfer Deeds
- Powers of Attorney
- Certification of Trust
- Continuing Lifetime Trust Provisions
- Special Needs Trust Provisions
- Pet Trust Provisions
California State Law and Estate Planning
As we begin to determine what’s best for you and your family, we can also help you navigate any laws that can affect your estate plan. For example, both the Federal Government and state Government of California are constantly passing new legislation that have direct impacts on estate, capital gains, or property tax planning. Before those laws go into effect, we will consult with you to determine any changes/updates that you need to make to your estate plan.
If you live in California and have an estate that’s worth a lot of money or includes any secondary properties, you’ll have to take special care in navigating the estate planning waters. Clients that have a total worth that exceeding $12 million per person will have to plan around an estate tax, and any clients who have secondary properties will have to plan around Proposition 19 and the changes to how property taxes for secondary properties are reassessed in California. However, there are techniques you can utilize with proper planning to reduce or eliminate these considerations.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Many people assume that estate planning services only benefit the wealthy. However, the truth is that no matter your net worth, having an estate plan in place offers you and your family many legal, financial, and long-term medical protections. Here are the benefits of retaining our estate planning services:
- Providing financial security for your family well after you are gone
- Establishing medical and financial directives in situations where you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions on your own (and avoiding a Probate court process for your family)
- Ensuring that all your beneficiaries receive inheritances that are fair, equitable, and optimized
- Avoiding or reducing exorbitant estate taxes that you shouldn’t have to pay in the first place
- Avoiding probate and preventing any family drama that could potentially ensue when settling your estate without a plan in place
Get in Touch With Our Estate Planning Lawyers Today
As trusted estate planning lawyers in San Diego, you can rest assured that you will receive nothing less than the personalized attention that you need and deserve when making these critical decisions. We offer every client a free strategy session where we will get to know more about you and learn about the goals that you have for your estate. From there, we will help you to structure an estate plan that makes you feel comfortable and best meets your goals. Also, if you already have estate planning documents, we’re happy to review them, at no cost to you, to ensure that they are accurate and consistent with your current wishes.