Once you have a spouse, a child, or significant assets, you naturally want to safeguard them from the unexpected.
While it may seem serious to think about, it is far more serious to leave your family unprotected. More than just planning for contingencies, our personal approach provides a unique opportunity to think about your wishes and have important conversations with your family.
Living Trust, Family Trust or Revocable Trust
A living trust is the central document to most of our clients’ estate plans. It avoids probate, which in California is very time-consuming, expensive, and reveals everything about your assets to the public. Yet a trust allows you to retain complete control over your income, assets and spending while you are alive and allows for a smoother transition to your intended beneficiaries.
A husband and wife will each have a pour over will which serves three important functions:
The pour-over will designates the transfer of your personal effects (personal property such as furniture, jewelry, and other meaningful items). Generally these are transferred to the surviving spouse or equally to the children.
Second, the pour-over will names guardians for minor children.
Finally, the pour-over will acts as a safety clause, in case any property is held in your name rather than by the living trust (described above).
Certification of Trust
A certification of trust is a condensed version of the Family Trust and protects your privacy.
This document provides proof that a valid trust has been established, without revealing details such as the identity of beneficiaries and the assets owned by the trust. This document is presented to banks and other financial institutions in order for the institution to title an account into the name of your Family Trust (whether the account is new or an existing account being renamed).
Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management
This document gives your appointed agent the power to make financial decisions on your behalf, without requiring court approval.
With a durable power of attorney, you have control over deciding if the powers to act as your agent will be effective immediately, “spring” into effect upon your incapacity, or are a hybrid of each.
Advance Health Care Directive
This document allows you to express your healthcare wishes, sparing your family from needing to guess what you want or making difficult medical decisions while under emotional stress.
The advance health care directive gives your appointed agent the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Advanced Estate Planning
Estate tax planning is considered with each client in the living trust as part of the preparation of the foundation documents. But, for larger estates, we look at additional planning tools beyond the foundation documents that can reduce or eliminate future estate tax or at least provide liquidity for payment of estate taxes. We consider many different tools, and in some cases decide to employ more than one. Some of the most frequently used are as follows:
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)
Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)
Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)
Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT)
Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)
Many other techniques are considered, but the ideas above give a flavor of the options available to an individual or a couple considering ways to lessen the impact of estate taxes after death.
What Will Work Best for You?
The methods above are ones we use most frequently in estate planning, but each client’s unique circumstances and needs are different. We’re here to help assess your specific goals and wishes and recommend the best ways to accomplish those for you. Please call us for a free and confidential consultation to learn how we can best serve your needs.