Trusted Estate Planning Lawyer in Southern California
Estate planning is the process of arranging for an orderly disposition of your assets after death to minimize legal and financial complications, reduce fees and expenses and, if necessary, minimize estate taxes. Estate planning is important for every adult, not just the “wealthy.” If you fail to do estate planning, the state has default rules (intestate succession) that govern the distribution of your estate and those rules are most likely not the choices you would make.
For generations, the Last Will & Testament was traditionally the document most commonly used for estate planning, and probate is the court process that administers an estate subject to a Will. Today, most Californians conclude that passing assets after death via court-supervised probate is unnecessarily expensive, frustrating and time consuming for heirs. Revocable trusts help clients avoid court involvement after death and also avoid conservatorship in case of lifetime incapacity. In addition, revocable trusts provide tremendous flexibility in terms of creatively structuring the distribution of assets to beneficiaries over time.
In addition to a revocable trust, most clients need a durable financial power of attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive (also known as a living will or health care power of attorney). These documents appoint agents to act on the principal’s behalf if the principal is incapacitated and help avoid court-supervised conservatorships.
For larger estates, the minimization or elimination of federal estate taxes can be critical. Various strategies can be implemented by experienced professionals, typically involving the use of trusts, both revocable and irrevocable. Some of these strategies include: bypass (or credit shelter) trusts; marital (or QTIP) trusts; irrevocable life insurance trusts; charitable remainder trusts; charitable lead trusts; grantor retained annuity trusts; intentionally defective grantor trusts; and typically some combination of these. Our offices in Los Angeles and Palm Springs have a wealth of expertise with each of these techniques.