Estate Planning Frequently Asked Questions
Estate planning in California is an important step to ensure your loved ones are taken care of after your death. However, not everyone knows about an estate planning, and those that do may have many questions. If you are looking for an estate attorney in Rocklin, the highly rated attorneys at Filippi Law Firm P.C, are here to help answer as many questions as possible to get you started on the journey to peace of mind with a solid estate plan.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a prepared legal document detailing how you want your financial and personal affairs handled after passing. Some people create a simple will, but an estate plan is a much more comprehensive plan that helps ensure that your assets are seamlessly transitioned to those you care about. Estate planning in Rocklin is also about creating a legacy for yourself and your loved ones.
Do I need an estate plan?
If you are over 18, it is essential to have a plan in place to protect your assets and your loved ones. An estate plan can be very complex and detailed, depending on how large your estate is, so a licensed estate lawyer in Rocklin can ensure that your assets are distributed how you want them to be.
What should be addressed in my estate plan?
Your estate plan should address any assets you have, including bank accounts, retirement plans, investments, real estate or property, businesses you own, insurance policies, cryptocurrency or any other digital assets, and anything of value that you own.
What documents are in an estate plan?
Your estate plan should include the following documents:
- Last Will & Testament
- Living Trust
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advanced Healthcare Directive
- HIPAA Authorization
- Guardianship and Conservator Designations
When should I update or modify my estate plan?
It is recommended to update your estate plan every three to five years. However, you should also update or modify your estate plan when you move to a different state, buy a home, get married or divorced, have a new child, or lose one of your beneficiaries.
I have minor children; what should be recovered in my estate plan?
In the unfortunate event of someone passing while their children are still minors, it is important to provide for them in an estate plan. Minor children are not eligible to inherit things outright, so your estate must name legal guardians and/or trustees of the funds you wish to leave to your minor children. These guardians or trustees will be held responsible for those funds until they are of legal age.
I have special needs dependent child; what should I include in my estate plan?
Planning your estate carefully when a special-needs dependent child is involved is important. Many special needs children receive benefits from the state, such as SSI or Medicaid, and you don’t want any assets from your estate plan to affect those benefits. So, it is crucial to plan your estate so that the special-needs child’s inheritance is not considered an available asset.
That way, their public assistance benefits are not affected. Of course, if your estate plan has enough money to take care of your children for life, you can include detailed information about what the child will receive and assign someone to handle the child’s benefits if they cannot do so themselves.
Will my beneficiaries’ inheritance be taxed?
The receipt of an inheritance by a beneficiary is not generally taxed. If the estate exceeds the estate tax exemption, the estate would have already been taxed prior to the distribution to the beneficiary. However, suppose the beneficiary begins to make income off the inheritance, such as an investment or selling a home or property. In that case, they may be responsible for the income tax on those amounts. It is important to confer with a CPA or other tax professional to determine you tax liability.
How much money do I need before an estate plan?
There is no minimum amount of money required to have an estate plan. There are several sections of an estate plan, such as a power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive, which do not involve money.
What happens if I don’t have an estate plan?
If you do not have an estate plan, what happens to your assets depends on individual state laws. Your assets could go into probate, where a judge will distribute them, resulting in unintended heirs receiving assets. You also risk squandering or misusing assets without an estate plan.
What is probate?
Probate is the process after someone’s death to verify the legality of their estate and ensure their wishes are carried out. Having a will can help make this process smoother because it is another document outlining what you wish to do with your assets after death.
Even if you have a will, your estate must go through a probate court for validation. After that, the judge will appoint someone to distribute your assets accordingly.
Why should I avoid probate?
There are several reasons you might want to avoid probate. Since probate is a legal process, it makes the estate plan a public record, so privacy is an issue. With probate, anyone can see how much was left and to whom. The cost for probate proceedings is significant and depends on the size of your estate. Either way, you will want to avoid the costs of probate.
Another thing to consider is the time the probate process takes. It prolongs the time between your death and when your beneficiaries get their inheritance.
How do I avoid probate?
The easiest way is to utilize a trust. It allows for the transfer of assets outside of the operation of the probate court. However, if you include an heir’s name on the deed to any property or home you intend to leave to them, it is already in their name when you die. While the property doesn’t have to go through the probate process, there are problems with this method which include the property going into probate if the beneficiary dies before you, and the beneficiary potentially loses out on the tax savings of a set up in basis.
Also, if you have an account where you can designate a beneficiary, this person will automatically receive your account’s assets after your death, so there is no need for the probate court to do so.
Should I hire a lawyer to help draft a will, or can I do it myself?
It is possible to draft a legal will on your own, but using a licensed estate attorney such as the highly rated attorneys at Filippi Law Firm P.C. is recommended to ensure the documents are up-to-date and can be held up in court.
How To Distribute Land in My Estate Plan?
There are many questions for families with estates and land in California. Being able to successfully grant that land to your loved ones is not as easy as you may think. At the time of your passing, there are two ways that land can be disbursed to your beneficiaries, depending on how you have your estate documented.
Establishing a Living Trust
If you want to bypass the court proceedings for your loved ones when you pass away, you need to establish a living trust currently with your estate and have all assets listed in this plan. During this process, there is a recording of the grant deed that exists for transfer purposes.
Once the recording of the grant deed is listed, you still own your property, but it is not owned at an individual level. It is now the property of the trust that you have created and there are no changes regarding how you use the property and what you choose to do with it. In fact, you are still required to pay taxes as you would like an individual owner.
What if I Don’t Have a Living Trust?
If a living trust was not established for your property and estate, then your heirs to the estate will have to go through the probate system to have the property transferred over. It will not be an easy transition, especially if they are looking to quickly sell the property and disperse the funds. They would need to wait for the property to migrate through the court system first and then move forward.
Land Disbursement After Your Passing
If you have a living trust in effect when you pass away, the recording of the grant deed listed on the trust will be the legal document that determines how the property is disbursed and how to whom based on your wishes. This document bypasses the tedious process of probate court that exists without a living trust.
Trustee Steps In
Whoever the person was designated as the trustee of the living trust by you will now have the authority to begin making decisions on the property and disbursing it as you requested. They will oversee the legalities regarding the property transfer. This person should be a third party, not a family member or someone receiving a part of the estate.
New Deeds Are Established
Based on who you designate for land, homes, etc., new deeds are drafted, making that person the property owner based on your wishes. If your recipients decide to sell the property, they can do so easily and disperse the sale’s proceeds equally.
Would You Like More Information?
Choosing to establish a living trust gives you a level of flexibility with your assets that you may not have been aware existed. This is critical for those planning to leave property behind as an inheritance. If you are interested in establishing a living trust or want to see if it is right for you, contact us at the Filippi Law Firm, P.C. today. We look forward to meeting you soon.
What Should You Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning is essential for anyone who owns assets or businesses or has a substantial sum of money to their name. When you are estate planning California, seeking out the right attorney is essential to streamline the process while maintaining your peace of mind.
If you are currently in the process of estate planning Rocklin, seeking out an estate planning attorney California is highly advisable. The right estate attorney Rocklin can provide you with each step necessary to ensure your estate is secured and legally protected.
Preparing to meet with your estate lawyer Rocklin ahead of time with questions you would like to have answered can also help you to feel at ease with any decisions you make regarding your estate plan itself.
Questions You Should Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney
How long have you been working with estate planning in California?
Seek an estate lawyer that is well-versed in estate planning in the state of California. The more experienced the attorney, the more likely they will understand your rights and options in the state.
Is estate planning your primary focus as a law firm?
Whenever you are in the process of seeking legal representation while planning for your estate, search for an attorney or law firm that focuses strictly on estate planning. Firms that focus on estate planning have access to more tools, resources, and opportunities to ensure your estate planning goes exactly as you envision.
What are the services you provide?
Not all estate planning attorneys provide the same representation or services regarding estate planning. To find an attorney that is right for you, inquire about what their representation means and what services they intend to offer to you.
How do you process and execute estate plans?
Choosing the right legal representation for any reason takes time to better understand your preferred attorney’s process. Ask a potential estate attorney about their process in drafting and executing an estate plan. While some lawyers are more hands-on and will work with your plan themselves, others may delegate the operation to someone else, who then becomes responsible for handling your estate planning, even if you have yet to meet them personally.
Once you know what to expect when working with your estate planning law firm, you can remain comfortable and at ease with each new step.
Is my estate planning discussed with other members of your law firm?
While fielding law firms for your estate planning, inquire about their privacy policies and whether or not your case details are confidential when you are outside the lawyer’s office. While some attorneys work solo, others work with an entire team that may coordinate details and plans for each client they take on. Clarify how your preferred attorney will communicate their action plan with other legal team members when the time is right.
Can I review my estate planning documentation and changes as they are made?
Verify that when planning for your estate, you can maintain access to estate documentation and changes as they occur in real time. Your attorney should be open to sharing documents, contracts, and all changes you make to your estate planning as they occur.
Does your law firm name itself as a trustee or an executor?
Ensure that the attorney or law firm you choose for your estate planning attorney California does not place their name as an executor or trustee of your estate. This is often considered questionable and, at best, a conflict of interest.
Will anyone else be working on my estate planning?
When hiring an attorney, ask about their law firm and whether or not anyone else will have access to your estate’s details. Knowing whether anyone else will be assisting throughout the estate planning process is also important.
How do you charge for your services?
If you are new to estate planning or preparing ahead of time, you may want to inquire how you will be charged for the legal services and representation you receive. Some attorneys and law firms require a retainer or an upfront fee to take on new clients. In some cases, estate planning is done at an hourly rate, while other estate planning tasks may be completed for a flat rate, depending on the legal team or attorney you retain.
What is your typical fee?
If you do not want to wait to receive a bill, it is best to be upfront with your estate planning attorney regarding their standard fees and hourly rates. In some cases, estate planning may cost as little as $200 (for someone who may not own many assets) to more than $1,000. Remember that most attorneys also charge an hourly rate, depending on the services you request.
How long does estate planning take?
For those who own one to two properties, estate planning might only require a few days to a week. However, those with numerous properties and extensive tax requirements may need more time. In some cases, estate planning can take months, depending on the size of the estate itself.
Common Concerns in Estate Planning
Some of the most notable concerns that clients have when they begin planning for their estate in California include:
Inheritances: How do I manage inheritances I want to enforce with my estate after I am no longer around?
Administration of assets: If you own more than one asset (residential or commercial), you may require ongoing administration of the assets each fiscal year and when it comes to upkeep and maintenance.
Reducing or preventing conflicts: Estates are often the primary source of contention among the loved ones of someone who has recently passed.
Minimizing excessive fees, legal expenses, and taxes: Getting your estate planning in order as quickly as possible can help you to avoid overpaying legal fees, taxes, and high and unnecessary costs for various services.
Wealth preservation: With estate planning, wealth preservation is made possible over decades, if not centuries, when coordinated properly.
The naming of guardians: If you have underage children who will be inheriting your estate (or a portion of your estate) before they reach the age of 18, estate planning can help to secure their future.
Working with an estate attorney from Filippi Law Firm P.C. is a way to move forward with your estate planning while keeping inheritances, loved ones, and your will in mind throughout the process.
If you currently reside in the state of California and need an estate plan of your own, get in touch with Filippi Law Firm P.C. We can help in planning for estate needs from start to finish with an estate attorney who is right for you. Contact us today to learn more about the estate planning services we can assist you with today.