Q:Do I need an attorney to create an estate plan?
A:Given the seriousness of your estate plan and its potential impact on your family’s future, we highly recommend that anyone drafting an estate plan seek the advice of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. State and federal laws are very particular about what can and cannot be included in a will, a trust, and other estate planning tools. To ensure that your plan is lawful and comprehensive, it is in your best interest to retain a lawyer.
Q:What is probate?
A:Probate is a legal process in which a deceased person’s estate is administered and distributed to beneficiaries noted in their will. During probate, all debts are also paid off to creditors. If the person died without a will, state law will determine how the estate is distributed. A court-supervised process will be necessary to fairly administer the estate.
Q:What is a power of attorney and when might I need one?
A:A power of attorney is a legal document that grants one person the authority to make decisions on someone else’s behalf. The extent of that authority can be defined within the document. A power of attorney can be used to allow someone to: Make decisions on your behalf regarding medical care or end-of-life care Manage your finances in the event that you are incapacitated Sign a document on your behalf Manage property or sell real estate on your behalf Collect debts or handle business transactions on your behalf
Q:Will I have to pay the estate tax?
A:Currently, California does not have an estate tax. Residents are, however, subject to the federal estate tax. Though the federal estate tax exemption fluctuates frequently, the current exemption is $11.4 million for individuals and $22.8 million for married couples. If your estate is worth anywhere near this amount, it is worth investing in estate tax planning services to maximize your tax shelter from transfer taxes.
Q:What is the difference between a conservatorship and a guardianship?
A:California distinguishes a difference between conservatorship and guardianship. Guardianship involves minor children, while conservatorship involves a disabled or incapacitated adult. A legal guardian has the right and responsibility to care for a child as a parent would – they assume both legal and physical custody. In a conservatorship, an adult can be named the conservator of another adult who cannot care for themselves or manage their finances alone.
Q:How often should I update my will?
A:It is a good idea to review your will every three to five years. We recommend sitting down with your Los Angeles estate planning lawyer and discussing any life changes you have experienced since last updating your will. Amend your will any time you undergo a major life experience, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. If you need to make any changes, you can file a codicil to your will, which replaces clauses in your existing will with new ones.
Q:What can I use to fund my trust?
A:Trusts can be funded by more than just cash assets. You can also fund a trust with a vehicle, stock portfolios, investments, real estate, and valuable family heirlooms.