Estate Planning

An investment in planning can make a tremendous difference to yourself and to your loved ones. Through proper planning you can create the tools for efficient management of your affairs during your lifetime and for an orderly transition upon your death.

Patsy’s goal is to assist you in assessing the particular needs of yourself and your family. She will also help you identify your primary goals, such as avoiding the cost or time of probate, simplifying the process for yourself and/or your family, providing for minors, protecting the availability of public benefits, etc. She informs you of the legal and tax aspects of different plans. Together you will make decisions about your plan, and she will tailor your documents to meet your needs.

Many families now include some combination of “his, her & our” children. Careful discussion of intentions and concerns can maximize the possibility that your goals will be met and family strife avoided. Patsy’s training and experience in communication skills can facilitate the discussion of topics which are sometimes sensitive.

When you make an appointment to come in you will be sent a Personal and Financial Profile to be completed before the meeting so that you can organize all the pertinent information and so that we can assist you efficiently.

WILLS & TRUSTS

The decision whether to use a will or a trust is an individual one, and Patsy will give you information on the relative advantages of each. Avoidance of the cost and delay of probate, and the relative costs and requirements of each planning mechanism will be discussed. Patsy’s goal is to help you assess your own situation so that you make wise choices.

Both a will and a trust contain “dispositive” language – they say who will inherit from you. A will must be probated, unless the estate is under a certain dollar limit, or unless everything is passing outright to a surviving spouse. Some clients prefer the simplicity of a will; Patsy will ensure that you are fully informed of the pros and cons of each choice.

A trust avoids probate if it is properly prepared and funded. Proper funding requires that your assets be transferred into the trust during your lifetime, or be paid into the trust on your death. Patsy will accomplish some of the funding for you by preparing deeds for real property which you will sign when you sign your trust. She will assist you with, or give you directions for, transferring other assets.

It is essential that your estate plan be fully coordinated. Employee benefits, IRAs,  and proceeds of life insurance all must be assessed so that the proper beneficiary can be designated in order for your goals to be accomplished and for the greatest tax savings.

Either a will or a trust can provide for minor children or grandchildren. There are two primary concerns with minors. The first concern is who your children who are minors would live with if both their parents die when they are minors. A guardian of the person, and an appropriate successor, will be named in your will. The second concern is naming a manager of the funds that you leave for the minor, whether those funds are your current assets or life insurance proceeds. That person is the trustee or the guardian of the estate for the minor.

Patsy can help you to sort through your needs, goals, and concerns, so that the documents she drafts for you are tailored for your situation.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

These documents work in conjunction with a will or trust to give your agent the power to manage your financial affairs, and to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. The important issue of life support will be addressed in these documents.

SPECIAL NEEDS TRUSTS

Many clients have a loved one for whom they wish to provide, but who is currently receiving public benefits, such as SSI or Medi-Cal. If their loved one receives an inheritance, the public benefits will likely stop. Patsy will help you assess whether it would be wise to leave an inheritance outright and give up the benefits, or perhaps to leave your loved one’s inheritance in a “Special Needs Trust”. Such a trust contains assets which are not considered by the State to be owned by the beneficiary. The income and assets can be used only for those things that the public benefits do not cover – much the way you might now be paying for special things such as travel, entertainment, dental work, etc., which Medi-Cal doesn’t cover.

UNMARRIED COUPLES

The law provides that married couples and registered domestic partners automatically have some legal rights in decision-making if their partner is incapacitated or dies. Even for those couples it is important that wishes be spelled out clearly so that things can be as smooth as possible in the event of such a situation. However for unmarried couples it is essential. The proper documents can ensure that the agent of your choice will make the decisions about your finances and physical body if you become incapacitated, and ensure that the beneficiary/ies of your choice receive your assets after your death. Patsy has worked with many couples to help them establish estate plans that carry out their goals and legally establish their ability to make decisions about and for each other.