Essential Estate Planning

"Estate Planning" is the process of getting one's affairs in order, so that personal, investment and business assets can be efficiently managed during life and passed on after death. Without an estate plan, the affairs of an incapacitated or deceased individual would be subject to expensive and lengthy court proceedings, and his or her assets would pass on without optimizing tax savings. Therefore, estate planning can help you (1) retain control over your person and your assets, (2) maximize the value of the assets that pass on to your beneficiaries, (3) protect those assets for your beneficiaries, (4) maintain your privacy, and (5) eliminate the hassle of dealing with the court system.

Due to state laws and real estate values, the essential estate plan for most California residents consists of (1) a living trust, (2) a pour-over will, (3) a power of attorney for asset management, (4) a health care directive and (5) a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") Authorization. Those who don't own real property in California may not need a living trust to avoid probate, but they would likely still benefit from the ease of management that a trust provides.

Our estate planning process helps clients to understand the legal tools available and keeps them from "getting stuck" in making decisions. The essential estate planning process begins with an introductory call, email or meeting to get acquainted with our services. Once we are engaged to prepare the estate plan, we review the asset and personal information provided to us and present the client with the options best suited for the client's situation. After the client confirms that the plan design meets his, her or the family's objectives, we finalize the documents and put the plan into action at a formal signing conference. We make the entire process as easy and convenient as possible.

Please read on for more information about the essential estate planning documents that each individual and family must have.

  • Living Trust – A living trust, which is also referred to as a "family trust" or a "revocable trust", is a method used to avoid the court proceeding known as "probate". Basically, the creator of the trust (referred to as the "settlor", "trustor", or "grantor") transfers his or her assets to himself or herself as "trustee" of the trust, so that the trustee can manage the assets during life and transfer them to the trust's beneficiaries at the settlor's death. The living trust contains extensive provisions that control how the assets are to be managed and name one or more "successor trustees" to serve in place of the settlor when he or she becomes unable to act due to incapacity or death. Because living trusts are revocable, the settlor can "amend" or modify the trust as circumstances change.
    Living trusts are powerful tools that can be used to continue to hold, manage and distribute assets for beneficiaries after the settlor's death and, where appropriate, in perpetuity. Living trusts can spring irrevocable sub-trusts to life at the death of the settlor. The sub-trusts can be used to provide for spouses, minor children, beneficiaries who should only have a "life interest" in the assets, beneficiaries who should be protected from creditors or predators, pets, or charities. In addition, irrevocable sub-trusts can be used to avoid estate taxes at the death of the first spouse and to minimize taxes at the death of the second spouse. When it comes to living trusts, the imagination of the settlor is the limit.

  • Pour Over Will – Because a living trust is effective only as to assets that the settlor transfers to it during life, it is usually accompanied by a will that directs assets left outside of the living trust into the trust at the settlor's death. In other words, the will "pours" the assets into the living trust, and then the trustee distributes the assets according to the trust's terms.

  • Power of Attorney for Assets – A power of attorney for assets is an arrangement by which the owner of the assets, known as the "principal", names an agent or "attorney-in-fact" to handle the principal's financial affairs in the event of his or her incapacity or unavailability. The powers and duties of the agent are specified in the document and under state law. A durable power of attorney for assets is used to deal with assets held in the principal's name as an individual (i.e., not in trust), such as IRAs and 401k plans, and ceases to operate at the death of the principal.

  • Health Care Directive and HIPAA Authorization. A health care directive is a power of attorney for health care decisions. It designates an agent to make decisions if one is unable to do so for him or herself, and lays out a road map of one's desires, such as type of treatment to be (or not to be) provided, whether home care is preferred, and how to dispose of one's remains. The HIPAA Authorization enables the agent to get around privacy laws and obtain medical records and other information about the principal. Please contact us to learn more about our estate planning services.

  • Copyright © the Law Offices of Jacqueline Real-Salas. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement. Some artwork provided under license agreement.

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The Law Offices of Jacqueline Real-Salas is a full service Estate Planning & Tax Planning law firm. They provide comprehensive planning in the areas of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives, advanced estate planning, income tax planning, probate & trust administration, probate avoidance planning, special needs trusts, disability planning and asset protection. Jacqueline Real-Salas serves clients and their families all throughout the Los Angeles Area, including Temecula, Pasadena, Murrieta, French Valley, North San Diego County, and the surrounding areas, cities and towns.

Copyright © IMS. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement. Some artwork provided under license agreement.