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Understanding California Estate Planning

Most people think of estate planning as something wealthy people do. The reality is that an “estate’” is not an expanse of land with an heirloom-filled castle on it. An estate is a house, bank accounts, brokerage accounts and life insurance. An estate plan can contain your wishes for yourself, your children and your assets.

At Norton Basu LLP, we know that estate planning is essentially a guide for your loved ones to follow on your behalf. We will work with you to create clear directives that are flexible enough to allow for unforeseen circumstances.

What A Typical Estate Plan Includes

The beauty of working one-on-one with an estate planning attorney is that you are able to craft a personalized plan that is as detailed and comprehensive as you want it to be. This plan can include the following tools and services:

  • If you’re a parent, your estate plan can include who you want to raise your children should the unthinkable happen.
  • Your plan can detail the medical procedures that you want to take place should you become seriously ill, injured or otherwise incapacitated.
  • You can provide detailed instructions as to “who gets what and when.” We will advise you on how to handle your retirement accounts and life insurance policies as well.
  • You may also want to create a living trust (also called a revocable living trust). This can help your estate avoid the prolonged and expensive probate process. Because the trust is revocable, you can terminate or change the trust should the circumstances of your estate or relationships change. Anyone with an estate worth over $166,250 can benefit from a trust.
  • We will also ensure that sentimental possessions are addressed so that your loved ones know your wishes and future discord can be avoided.

An estate plan allows you to bypass many hurdles. By planning well, you can make sure that your loved ones will not have to deal with probate, pay estate taxes or go through an expensive and emotionally grueling conservatorship process if you become disabled or incapacitated.

Common Questions And Answers About Estate Planning, Wills And California Revocable Living Trusts

At Norton Basu LLP, we know that you want to plan so that your loved ones will be taken care of and your assets will be redistributed per your wishes. A living trust is one way to protect your estate. Have more questions? Call us at 408-520-1712 and get straightforward answers.

I’m not married, and I don’t have children. I don’t need an estate plan, right?

I’m not married, and I don’t have children. I don’t need an estate plan, right?

Wrong! You definitely need an estate plan. If you are single with no children, California probate law will pass your assets to your closest blood relatives when you die. Your assets will be distributed to more distant relatives if your immediate family members are not alive at the time of your death. But most people have friends, specific relatives and/or charities to which they want to leave their estates. A comprehensive estate plan can make sure that the right people or charities receive your assets and continue your legacy.

What is a power of attorney, and do I need one?

A power of attorney is a very important estate planning document that every adult should have. If you lose your mental capacity due to an injury or illness, a power of attorney grants someone you trust the power to make legal decisions on your behalf. They can sign legal documents, make financial transactions and complete other actions that you might not be able to do yourself.

Can I make a handwritten will?

Although you have the right to write your own handwritten will – also called a holographic will – this is not always wise. For a court to uphold it, you must meet several strict criteria. You must:

  • Write it by hand 100% and include your signature
  • Write it while you’re of sound mind and are not under undue influence from another person
  • Add the date that you wrote it somewhere on the will

If you do not do this, a judge will not consider it valid.

Can I avoid probate through estate planning?

Estate planning is a great way to help your loved ones avoid the probate process after your death. Although a will has to go through probate, you can use a living trust and other tools, such as joint ownership, to keep your assets out of the court system.

Does California have an estate tax?

Fortunately, the state of California does not impose an estate or inheritance tax. The federal government, however, does. Under federal law, assets over $12.92 million are taxed at a rate of between 18% and 40%. Because of these high rates, you should take advantage of strategic estate planning to shield your assets from taxes.

What are the benefits of a revocable living trust?

The benefits of a revocable living trust include the following:

  • You gain peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and your legacy are protected.
  • Your family and your estate bypass the long and expensive California probate process.
  • You retain control. You determine how your estate is managed and what happens to your assets after your death. The money in a trust can be distributed in many ways, including paying it to minors on an annual basis or using it to pay tuition.
  • Your estate remains private. By eliminating the need for probate, your personal and private affairs do not become a matter of public record upon your death.
  • You can protect your assets from creditors. Depending on how your trust is set up and administered, it can also protect assets that you have set aside for your children or grandchildren from creditors.

What is probate? Does my estate still go through probate if I have a will?

Probate is the process of gathering all your assets, settling your debts and distributing your estate to your heirs under the supervision of the probate court. Assets passed via a will are still subject to probate. Consider executing a revocable living trust instead.

How do I get started? Do you offer free consultations?

Unlike many lawyers, we don’t ask you to fill out a lengthy, impersonal questionnaire before we meet. Your initial, free consultation is to discuss your intentions, your vision and how we can create it. Expect to meet for 30 minutes.

What is included in a revocable living trust package?

  • A revocable living trust and related documents
  • A “pour-over” will
  • A power of attorney
  • An advance health care directive
  • A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) waiver
  • A nomination of guardianship for minor children
  • Real estate property deeds transferring ownership to the trust
  • Asset titling documents

How much does it cost to set up a revocable living trust?

We offer a flat-fee structure, which varies depending on your specific wishes, so you will know exactly what to expect in terms of cost. Once you’re our client, we will remain available to you whenever you have a question. We offer unlimited support via telephone, email, Zoom or in person. Ask us a question at any time.

Get The Personal Guidance You Need To Create A Custom Estate Plan

We know that it’s not your favorite thing to think about, but estate planning is important. It really is the greatest gift that you can give to your loved ones to alleviate stress and uncertainty. Still have questions? We offer a free consultation so that you can clearly understand the process and what you might need. Call 408-520-1712 to set up a free consultation. You can also reach us via our website.