Most people understand that it is important to have a will. The belief in having a will is common knowledge, and has been a part of family planning for hundreds of years.
In the last 50 years most states have amended their statutes to allow more options in estate planning. California followed this trend by adopting statutes in 1986 which allowed, in addition to a Will, for Revocable Trusts, sometimes called a Living Will, Durable Powers of Attorney for Property and Health, and Health Care Directives.
When these new options are combined with the traditional Will, it is possible, in addition to directing whom shall be the beneficiary of your estate, to avoid probate costs, eliminate or reduce federal estate taxes, give the courts guidance on whom shall be the guardians of your children, whom shall make health care decisions for you, and who will have the power to manage your affairs.
By adopting an estate plan you can eliminate the need for a judge and courts to order who or how your affairs will be handled in the event your are unable to do so, or on your death, who your children will be raised by, and in which environment, thereby reducing the chance minor children will be placed in protective custody (or a foster home), and provide for trusts that will implement our ideas, and eliminate or reduce estate taxes.
PLANNING THE ESTATE
The planning and drafting of an estate plan by an attorney can be done without spending a lot of time gathering documents or organizing finances. The ability to create the estate plan without requiring great attention to details is the result of the new statutes mentioned above, and because the Law Offices of David J. Hart uses the help of professionals already helping you. It allows us to focus on the big issues and general intent rather than burdening you with the minute details of documents and financial information.
The estate plan that is best for you can typically be authored after a meeting with an attorney for an hour or so, combined with information that can be provided by answering a short questionnaire. The initial discussion can even be held over the telephone.
THE ESTATE PLAN
Most families will find that an estate plan which includes a Revocable Trust, a Pour Over Will, for each spouse, Durable Powers of Attorney for Property and Health Management, and Advanced Health Care Directives will protect them and their families.
The Revocable Trust is a legal entity and as such typically allows for the avoidance of probate, as well as the elimination or reduction of estate taxes. It also allows you to create trusts for the protection of your children or other beneficiaries.
A Revocable Trust can be revoked at anytime by you, so that if in the future it no longer serves your wishes, it is gone.
A Pour Over Will ensures that any property not transferred to the trust before death is transferred after death. The Will also states your wishes regarding a Guardian for your children.
The Durable Powers of Attorney for Property and Health Management allows you to provide whom shall manage your affairs if you are unable or unwilling to do so. It also allows for the transfer of property to the Revocable Trust which you may be unable to do for yourself, thereby ensuring the Revocable Trust will accomplish all it was intended to do.
The Health Care Directive allows you to decide who will make important decisions concerning your health treatment if you are unable to make the decisions yourself, without the need to petition a court for the authority to make those decisions.
Other provisions that may be needed: In addition, the Law Offices of David J. Hart will review your needs so that it can be determined if more sophisticated estate planning is required, such as generation skipping trust provision, spend thrift trusts, special needs trusts or charitable trusts. Further provisions may be needed to protect or mitigate excessive Federal Estate Taxation that otherwise would apply to clients who are not United States citizens.