Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of establishing a plan for the management and distribution of your assets upon your death or incapacity. You want to make sure that your final property and health care wishes are honored, and that your family and loved ones are provided for when you are gone.

Parenting When You’re Gone

Some families with complex situations or children who will need a lot of guidance need an estate plan to provide financial management, care and structure. As the experts with these types of involved estate  plans, we have developed an estate planning guide to walk you through each step.

Estate planning services

Our estate planning services begin with a thorough understanding of what you will need and your goals. Then we help you designate beneficiaries, decide how assets will be held (type of trust), how those assets will be disbursed (over time, through a trustee, in a special trust), specify directions for care, establish goals for the life of child in terms of financial support and guidance from others.

To lead our clients through this process, we have developed an estate planning worksheet. This worksheet will you prepare for our first meeting, making it easier to share your goals and concerns.

Although the basics of estate planning are the same, many of the specific documents may vary by state.

Estate Planning in California

A typical estate plan for a couple in California will include the following main elements:

  • A revocable living trust, to hold most of your assets and make sure probate is avoided
  • “Pour-over” wills which nominate guardians of minor children

  • Financial powers of attorney, authorizing those you trust to manage your financial affairs if you are unavailable or unable to do so
  • Advance health care directives (formerly called “health care powers of attorney” or “living wills”), specifying your wishes for medical decision-making authorizing those you trust to carry out those wishes

Grateful for Ellen’s expertise with trusts

“We can’t speak more highly of Ellen’s expertise with trusts. Several years ago our financial planner suggested that we look into dynastic trusts because of changing tax laws. We also  have a special needs granddaughter on the autistic spectrum. Ellen crafted a trust that not only provides for our heirs but has special needs provisions to protect and provide for our granddaughter. Ellen really understands special needs children because she’s part of that community. Jan: We are so grateful  to Ellen for how she takes care of us.”

– Dave & Jan Banks

Funding your Estate Plan

Once your estate plan is drafted and signed, the revocable living trust must be funded in order to work properly. “Funding” is essentially the process of transferring assets into your trust. An estate planning attorney will generally record a grant deed, signed by you. This transfers your real property into the trust. For bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mutual funds, etc., you should bring a signed copy of the trust, or a shortened version of the trust (called a “certification of trust”) to the entity and ask them to retitle the accounts into the trust. Other steps may need to be taken to transfer more complicated assets, such as LLC interests and timeshare holdings, into the trust.

Some assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance, are not typically transferred into the trust. Instead, you can update beneficiary designation forms to name the trust or individuals as the designated beneficiaries. We can discuss the tax implications to make sure you make the right choice.

We can simplify the Estate Planning process. Find out how.