Estate Planning

As many as two-thirds of American adults do not have an estate plan.  At a minimum an adult should have a Will that distributes property and names guardians for any children.  Anyone with substantial assets (real property, business interests, investments, etc.) should consider using a Trust.  Managing assets in a Trust minimizes taxation and eliminates the delays and fees associated with a probate administration.  Most importantly, a trust can be used to ensure that your loved ones are cared for long after you have passed on.  “Stretching things out” for minor children and financially immature adults is one of the primary reasons that people with children establish living trusts.

Your Initial Consultation:  We always do an initial consultation without charge or sales pressure to discuss your estate dynamics.  By the end of that initial meeting we will have the information we need to prepare drafts and you will have the information you need for your decision to retain us.  We always encourage potential clients to feel free to shop around to compare styles and validate the competitiveness of our rates.  You will receive a follow-up letter and proposed services agreement by mail a few days later.  Contact us now to schedule a phone consult or a meeting at one of our convenient east bay offices.

The Planning Timeline:  The whole estate planning process usually runs six to eight weeks. It takes us two weeks to draft the documents and you two weeks or more to read them.  We do one or more review meetings to go over the drafts and then about two weeks later we have a final signing meeting.  That process can be accelerated for urgent medical or travel plans.

A Range of Rates:  Our married couple flat fee package ranges from $2150 to $2750 depending upon the complexity of the distribution and funding schemes.  Single person flat fee packages run $1350 to $1750. These package rates include the preparation of deeds and notarization of all documents.  For persons with existing estate plans or needing less than a package, the attorney hourly drafting rate is $400.  We are also an ARAG service provider.

More than Just a Will and a Trust:  Estate planning encompasses so much more than Wills and Trusts. A Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions (to appoint an agent to handle financial affairs in the event of your incapacity) and an Advance Health Care Directive (to make your healthcare desires known and appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable) are included in every estate planning package.

Review and Update:  Estate plans should be reviewed periodically and updated with significant life events and changes in the law.  Another goal in updating plans is to simplify administration.  Just a few years ago it was very popular for attorneys to use “ABC Trusts” to minimize estate taxation on medium sized estates.  An ABC Trust requires that the estate be split into and managed as two or three sub-trusts upon the death of the first spouse.  Now, due to changes in tax laws, most of these estates could attain the same tax minimization by using a simple Survivor’s Trust and having an option to create a Disclaimer Trust.  There will always be a need for complex estate planning techniques to maximize wealth protection in larger estates.  For most estates, the simplest plan which accomplishes the client’s desires is the best because it minimizes the time and cost of post death administration and because it minimizes the liability exposure for the Trustee, usually a friend or family member, charged with carrying out the plan.

A Simple Philosophy:  Our estate planning philosophy is simply this: (1) you should be made aware of and educated on all of the options available to address the complex interplay between your relationships, your assets, and those you wish to benefit; (2) your resulting plan should be only as complex as necessary to accomplish your desires; (3) we will pester and assist you in trust funding so that you know all of the follow up tasks are done; and (4) we should exceed your service expectations.