Overview of Estate Planning

Whether you realize it or not, you already have an “estate”— this is just another way of describing your total assets. Because tax, trust and estate laws are updated and amended with increasing frequency (and changes in those laws can expose your estate to risk and uncertainty) it’s important to protect your wealth now and in the future.

Whether you simply want to be able to pass what you have to a spouse, child or other family member or friend (or if you are a high net worth individual, senior corporate executive or the owner of a privately held business) we can provide you with more business transition and estate planning experience and expertise in our office than any other firm in Northern California. We’re ready to help you protect your estate and transition ownership of your assets to your intended beneficiaries.

The perfect estate plan, above all else, is personal. Our experienced estate planning attorneys can do more than list what revocable or irrevocable trusts, gifts, sales and transition plans might be available to you. Knowing which options and methods can best help you achieve your personal objectives, and how to implement them, is what separates our experienced estate planning attorneys from the rest.

You may already be familiar with Living Trusts, Wills, QTIPs, ILITs, QPRTs, GRITs, GRATs, FLPs and FLLs, but knitting them all together in a plan that meets your needs is best handled by competent legal counsel like us.

Full Range of Estate Planning Services offered:

 

“Traditional” Estate Planning, Including Preparation of Revocable (Living) Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts and Wills

Regardless of the size of your estate, unless you have either a will or trust in place when you pass away, chances are that your assets will not pass to the people you want to have them the way you might have hoped they would get them. Additionally, it is often wise to pass assets to children in trust so that it is managed for them until they are responsible. By executing a “simple” will, you can clarify who you would like to take what, and when you would like them to get that. However, because of the need for court approval, probate of a will is usually more expensive than administration of a “simple” revocable trust.

In addition to allowing you to identify who you would like to take what, when, without having to subject your estate to probate, a revocable trust (with a bypass trust or credit shelter trust and a marital trust or QTIP trust) can be utilized to achieve substantial estate tax savings, at least until December 31, 2012. (While recent estate and gift tax law changes have added a great deal of certainty for the next 2 years, absent Congressional action before December 31, 2012, those changes will expire and the law which was in effect back in 2001 will come back into effect, emphasizing the need for “basic” bypass or credit shelter trusts, marital trusts and QTIP trusts.)

While any of the aforementioned wills or revocable trusts can help you achieve your goals and provide a solid plan to retain your assets, we can also assist you in establishing irrevocable life insurance trusts (“ILITs”), qualified personal residence trusts (“QPRTs”), grantor retained income trusts (“GRITS”) and grantor retained annuity trusts (“GRATS”) if any of those irrevocable trusts would be desired and appropriate.

We can help you identify which, if any, of these trusts would be best suited for you, and assist you in implementing your decision.

Living Wills and Health Care Directives

The creation of living wills and other health directives allows individuals to determine the type of care that they receive, and to delegate decision-making authority regarding your health care to others. We can help you ensure that the right persons are named and the decision-making authority they are granted is in accordance with your desires.

Durable Powers of Attorney

In the event you should become disabled, these documents can be useful to ensure that all assets are funded into your revocable living trust and that all of your personal affairs are in order, and to delegate this power to others. Like the help we can offer with respect to your Living Wills and Health Care Directives, we can assist you in ensuring that the right persons are named and the decision-making authority they are granted is in accordance with your desires.

Support and Educational Trusts

Support and educational trusts for children and other family members can be designed to minimize income taxes while providing assurance that resources will be available to your heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with your desires. If the circumstances dictate that such a trust would be appropriate, we can assist you in drafting and implementing such a trust.

Special Needs Trust

These trusts are extremely important when dealing with beneficiaries with special needs. If a child is on public assistance or may be in the future, they will lose these benefits if assets are not held in a special trust. So, your documents need to be tailored in these situations.

Family Business Planning, Including Transition Planning for Closely Held Corporations, Partnerships and Limited Liability Companies

If necessary, we can work with you to create or reorganize a business structure to minimize or defer estate taxes and/or implement a “buy-out” agreement or insurance program to ensure that enough liquid assets will be available to pay any taxes which cannot be eliminated or deferred. We are intimately familiar with the formation of family limited partnerships (“FLPs”), joint ventures, and limited liability companies (“FLLCs”) to develop and/or operate real estate or other business projects while substantially reducing the family’s potential income and estate tax and preserving control.

Planning for Family Business Buy-Outs and Insurance Programs

Based on our intimate familiarity with all forms of business entities (corporations, partnerships, LLCs and joint ventures), we are highly qualified to assist you in designing and implementing buy-sell and stock restriction agreements, and various insurance programs, which can be used to fund those buy-outs.

Life insurance Planning

Whether coupled with a business buy-sell agreement or deemed necessary for liquidity or estate creation/supplementation, we are familiar with all forms of life insurance, and how it can be applied in any particular estate plan to achieve a particular objective.

Employee and Retirement Benefit Planning

While we aren’t retirement benefit administrators, we are well-versed in retirement benefit planning, and how it should be coordinated with one’s estate plan. We can help ensure that your retirement benefits get to the person or persons you intended to receive those benefits subject to minimal estate tax and gift tax — and that your beneficiary is not deprived of your retirement benefits because of any unintended/unanticipated acceleration of the obligation to pay the income taxes applicable thereto.

International Estate Planning

We have estate tax planning attorneys who are actively involved in a number of international cases, dealing with not just the estate planning issues relative thereto, but some of the income tax reporting issues which have been hitting the press lately.

Wealth Preservation Planning

Many clients want to pass assets in a manner that avoids estate tax in their children’s estate. This is called generation-skipping. Simply put, this means that estate taxes skip a generation, yet your children can access funds. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Marital Agreements, Including Premarital Agreements (“Pre-Nups”) and Post-Nuptial Agreements (“Post-Nups”)

We have planned, negotiated and drafted prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, and other arrangements to:

  • Provide for the continued unified operation and control of family businesses and investment properties following a divorce
  • Protect assets and earnings from potential claims of ex-spouses or others

Post-Mortem Planning

If a loved one should pass on before they have been able to implement or update an estate plan, you can still turn to post-mortem planning. This type of planning offers opportunities to optimize the manner in which assets are distributed and income and estate taxes are minimized, including the execution of qualified disclaimers.

Estate and Trust Administration

In addition to the planning aspect of our practice, as more thoroughly outlined in the PROBATE section of this site, our firm provides comprehensive assistance in the administration of both trusts and estates, including:

  • Preparation, filing and audit of estate tax returns and gift tax returns
  • Representation of fiduciaries in administrative matters
  • Representation of clients in will contests and other intrafamily disputes
  • Representation of beneficiaries against fiduciaries who are alleged to have breached their fiduciary duties

Private Foundations, Including Family Foundations

When some of our wealthier clients are charitably inclined, we have worked with them in forming private foundations or family foundations. These not only benefit certain charities but also, when properly structured, can be utilized to pass control of a “family asset” down for multiple generations.

Publicly Supported Charities, Including Charitable Lead Trusts (Also Referred to as “CRITS”) and Charitable Remainder Trusts (Including both “CRTS” and “CRUTS”)

Any time a client is charitably motivated, we can help the client transition whatever assets or wealth the client chooses to a particular charity or charities.

We often assist clients in this regard, analyzing the benefits of utilizing any sort of a charitable trust—whether it be a “standard” CRT, or a CRIT or CRUT—and contrasting those benefits with other planning alternatives (such as an outright gift as contrasted with a bargain sale, as contrasted with an installment sale).

If you are so inclined, or someone is attempting to convince you that you should be, you might schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys who can help you determine how you might best accomplish your charitable objectives without adversely impacting your other estate plans.

Asset Protection Planning

Over the last 15-20 years, as courts and juries have demonstrated a tendency to redistribute other people’s wealth at inopportune times, people have started to look more seriously at asset protection planning and the benefits it can offer those of higher net worth who have no desire to let a judge or jury share it with strangers.

To keep up with this trend, our estate planning attorneys “cover all bases,” advising clients to do things as simple as titling assets in a certain fashion, to move assets to Delaware Trusts, Alaska Trusts or off-shore, or to form entities. So if you think it might be time for you to consider whether your estate is subject to any undue exposure, we invite you to meet with one of our asset protection planning attorneys to determine what can be done to minimize that exposure.

Conclusion

We hope our brief review of these services has shown you how familiar we are with virtually all techniques currently being applied in the estate planning area. Because of the breadth of experience of our attorneys, we can work with you to implement any of the aforementioned techniques we agree to be the most likely to achieve your goals in a cost-effective fashion generating minimal estate and gift tax consequences.

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10640 Mather Blvd., Suite 200, Mather, CA 95655 | (916) 920-5286
1350 Treat Blvd., Suite 400, Walnut Creek, CA 94597 | (925) 478-7308