Estate Planning for Everyone You Love and Everything You Have
At Bridge Law LLP, we can’t underestimate the importance of a sound estate planning strategy because we understand that your most important assets are your loved ones. More than your financial wealth, your family is the most important, unique, personal, and valuable treasure you have.
We understand this because we have families of our own, and we get how important it is to make sure your loved ones are protected and taken care of. We often ask our clients, “Do you know what would happen to the people you love the most if something unexpected happened to you?” “What would they have to deal with?” “Are they prepared for that?” “Do you have a plan in place, or is your family familiar with the consequences of probate without you?”
Unfortunately, most people think that if they die, their valuables will automatically go to the people they want. This includes your house, your kids, your assets, everything you call your own.
But it’s not that simple.
Unless you have a legal “estate plan” in place, the State of California has a plan for all of your valuables. It’s called “probate,” and except for the courts and the state (who stand to make a large profit from probate proceedings), probate is a no-win situation for the families involved in it. It’s one place you don’t want your family to end up. It’s very expensive. It’s very time-consuming. It’s very frustrating, and it’s public for all the whole world to see and prey upon your loved ones. To top it off, most of your assets will get seized and frozen while probate proceedings are going on. It’s often been said, “Probate is a lawsuit you file against yourself and loved ones, for the sole benefit of your creditors, using your own money.”
If you are a California resident and own property greater than $50,000 or if you have combined assets greater than $166,000, your assets will end up in probate if you do not have an estate plan. (Note: contrary to popular belief, a will does not avoid probate).
Not all Estate Plans are Built the Same
Like most things in life, you get the estate plan you pay for. One of the biggest misconceptions is that an estate plan is nothing more than just a set of legal documents that everyone needs to sign. While it is true that your estate plan is a set of documents, these will the most important documents you ever sign in your life. More importantly, the planning that goes into the documents is what will make your documents unique.
Our Trusts and Estates partner, Lalit Kundani, cautions individuals as to what makes one estate plan different from another.
The Estate Tax
If that wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. government also imposes something called the estate tax. The estate tax is applied to the transfer of your assets at the time of your death. It is calculated based on the fair market value of everything you own, including assets such as cash, real estate, annuities, insurance, business interests, and other assets. Currently, it’s around 40% and, depending on your citizenship status and how much you own, this tax can wipe out all of your assets pretty quickly – even assuming you get out of probate. (Just like probate, a will does not avoid the estate tax).
A trust, like a will, is a legal document that contains instructions for the allocation of your assets upon your death. A trust though, unlike a will, can avoid probate, give greater control over all of your assets, and prevent court interference in the event of your incapacitation. An “estate plan” that includes a trust avoids the nightmares caused by probate or estate taxes. It’s inexpensive. It’s quick. It’s private. And it’s done on your own terms with no governmental interference.
If you have minor children, one of the primary reasons you will be completing a plan is to ensure that they are raised by the people you nominate to be their guardians. Not naming guardians for your children can lead to disastrous outcomes, including temporary and permanent placement. A good estate plan avoids all this, and even creates special medical powers of attorney for your each of your minor children. You can list their pediatricians, dentists, special instructions on how they should be raised, and much more!
Maximize Tax Efficiencies
We’ve heard people say, “Oh you don’t need a trust! Just add your child to your home deed!” That’s a big mistake on many levels. This is just one example of where commonly-held beliefs can be more taxing, literally.
Comprehensive Family Estate Planning
An estate plan needs to be your estate plan. Not some cookie-cutter plan where the attorney will do little more than change your family’s name on some documents, and then charge you for it.
At Bridge Law LLP, not only do we customize and design your trust to meet your family’s needs, but we give our clients all sorts of options that many estate planning attorneys have never heard of.
- Living Trust Agreement
- Marital Property Agreement
- Financial Powers of Attorney
- Medical Powers of Attorney
- Health Care Directives
- Schedule of Assets
- Final Disposition Instructions Form
- HIPAA Waivers
- Summary of Estate Planning Provisions
- Summary of Fiduciaries and Other Designated Persons
- Clients’ Information Sheet
- Pour-Over Will
- Certificate of Trust
- Declaration of Trust
- Assignment of Personal Property
- Personal Property Distributions Form
- Digital Version
Estate Planning with the Attorneys of Bridge Law LLP
Most importantly, your estate plan will change over the years. That’s because your family will grow and change, your assets will grow and change, and the law will also change. But most estate planning attorneys create your documents once, and then you never hear from them again. When you need their help later to update your trust to reflect these changes, they tell you they will charge you by the hour to talk to them.
Our attorneys have helped countless individuals in the State of California with their estate planning and family trust goals. We work closely with accountants and financial planners to coordinate your plan in order to execute your vision and goals.
At Bridge Law LLP, when we hand you your documents, it marks the beginning of our relationship, not the end. It’s part of our approach.