Pacific Legal, PC provides comprehensive estate planning services. Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is just for the wealthy, but that couldn't be further from the truth – in fact, every individual who has reached the age of eighteen years should have some type of estate plan in place, regardless of asset level. Estate planning is not merely about who gets what when you’re gone – rather, estate planning involves creating, implementing, and maintaining a plan to ensure that you are taken care of if you are ever alive but incapacitated and to make sure that your spouse and children are taken care of if you are deceased.
Dealing with Incapacity.
Estate planning involves putting legal documents in place to ensure that if you are ever incapacitated, a person of your choosing (your spouse, child, parent, friend, etc.) will be able to make financial, health care, and personal care decisions for you. Without proper estate planning, if you are ever incapacitated, your loved ones will be forced to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to get legal authority to manage your assets, pay your bills, pay for your family’s needs, consent to medical procedures for you, and make health care and personal care decisions on your behalf (for example, to terminate life support or to choose an assisted living facility and health care providers for you).
Nominating a Guardian.
Estate planning also involves putting legal documents in place to ensure that if you are deceased, a person or persons of your choosing will raise your children. In the absence of formally nominating a guardian, your parents/in-laws/siblings/friends will be forced to petition a court (again, a time-consuming and expensive venture) for the right to care for your children. An effective estate plan can also provide guidance regarding your wishes for your children – how they should be raised and how the money available for their care should be used. In addition, an estate plan can appoint one individual for day-to-day care of your children while appointing another individual to make financial decisions for your children – this provides a system of checks and balances and ensures oversight over how your children’s money is spent. At Pacific Legal, PC, we are skilled in tailoring estate plans that meet all of the needs of your family.
Distributing Your Estate.
Estate planning also involves creating a plan to manage and/or distribute your estate on your death. A failure to formally lay out your wishes in this regard means the following:
- You are relinquishing control to the state in which your assets reside, allowing that state to determine who inherits from you, how much they inherit, and when they inherit;
- Your estate (in California, if valued at more than $150,000) will have to go through a formal probate before it can be distributed, which will eat up your beneficiaries’ time and money;
- Your beneficiaries may have to pay a hefty estate tax bill upon inheriting from you.
A well-crafted estate plan, however, empowers you to determine who inherits from you, how much they inherit, and when they inherit. This is particularly useful if you will have minor children or young adults as beneficiaries. In the absence of an estate plan that says otherwise, a minor child beneficiary will inherit their full share upon turning eighteen years of age. As you can imagine, receiving a large inheritance at a young age could actually harm that child by perhaps railroading plans for continuing education, not to mention encouraging unwise spending practices. This is also often the case for young adult beneficiaries. For many young adults, they are set up for success if they receive an inheritance spread out over a number of distributions, e.g., 1/3 upon earning a Bachelor’s degree or reaching the age of twenty-five years, 1/3 upon reaching the age of thirty years, and 1/3 upon reaching the age of thirty-five years. For many young adults, wisdom and maturity develop with each successive distribution, and lessons are learned, thereby inspiring confidence in handling money and a setting them on a path toward a lifetime of success with handling finances.
A well-designed estate plan also allows your estate to avoid probate altogether. By creating a revocable living trust and funding that trust with your assets, you are empowering your trustee to manage or distribute all of your assets on your death with no court involvement whatsoever, thereby saving time and money for your beneficiaries.
Minimizing Estate Taxes.
Finally, a properly-drafted estate plan empowers you and your spouse to minimize or eliminate estate taxes altogether, which, depending on the size of your estate, could save your beneficiaries tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions of dollars of your hard-earned money.
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We are pleased to offer the following documents and services, all prepared by a licensed California attorney and all tailored to your unique situation:
- Simple Wills
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Pour-Over Wills
- Financial Durable Powers of Attorney
- Advance Health Care Directives/Health Care Powers of Attorney
- HIPAA Authorizations
- Transfer of Real Property to Revocable Living Trusts
- Instructions and Tools to Fund Revocable Living Trusts and Implement Estate Plans
- Review of Existing Estate Planning Documents
- Amendment of Existing Estate Plans
All of the above-listed documents and services are offered on a flat fee basis. The fee charged for an estate plan that is tailored to you is determined after an initial consultation, and will be based on your individual circumstances, e.g., the property you own, the complexity of your family situation, and the complexity of the management and distribution terms of your estate plan.