An estate plan is a collection of documents that specifies your exact wishes on how and to whom you want your assets, money, and property distributed. Estate Planning is meant to make it easier for your loved ones to handle your affairs during a time of grief. At The Cohen Law Offices in San Mateo, we have estate planning attorneys you can trust, ready to work with you.
The Estate Planning Process
Estate planning is a process. In our office, the process begins with an initial consultation on a wide variety of topics that would assist us in understanding an individual’s specific estate planning needs. The consultation is an interactive process during which one of our estate planning attorneys listens to and provides potential clients with advice and counsel in a manner which is easy to understand and comprehend.
A typical Estate Plan may include some or all of the following documents:
Trust (Living “Revocable” Trust, Special Needs Trust or other customized Trust)
Pour Over Will
Durable Power of Attorney
Advance Health Care Directive
Nomination of Conservator
Certification of Trust
Nominations of Guardianship for minor children
What are the benefits of an Estate Plan?
A detailed estate plan has many benefits including but not limited to: avoidance of lengthy and costly probate proceedings, avoidance or reduction of estate taxes, the naming of individuals who manage your affairs at your death or incapacity and specifying who will receive all or a portion of your estate.
Contact us for an initial thirty minute consultation
Our goal as your estate planning attorneys will be to ensure your wishes are honored, your wealth is preserved, and your loved ones are cared for. That is why we offer an initial thirty minute conversation at no cost with strings attached. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
What makes up my property?
There are two types of property under the law. "Real" property refers to real estate. This includes both houses and land. The second type of property is called "personal" property, which includes cars, cash, jewelry, stocks, bonds, and any other type of personal belongings.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that, upon your death, allows you to name people or charities to receive your assets, guardians for your minor children, the person that you want to handle your financial affairs and distribute your assets, and set forth your burial wishes.
What are estate taxes?
Many estates never have to pay estate taxes at all. If the total value of your assets is under $5.34 million as of January 2014, you do not have to pay any estate taxes. For larger estates, there are many ways to reduce estate taxes through effective estate planning.
What happens if I die without a will or other estate documents?
Your property passes pursuant to California law, which determines the order in which your legal heirs inherit your assets. Many individuals do not want their assets distributed as the state would distribute them. The method to avoid having the state make the decisions for you is to complete an estate-planning package in which you determine how your assets will be distributed.
What is included in a "standard" estate package?
There is no real "standard" estate package. Most estate plans need to be modified based upon your own family and financial situation. However, most estate plans will include at least the following: a revocable trust, a pour-over will, and powers of attorney for financial and health matters.
What is a trust?
A trust is a written document that is created to manage your assets. Generally, the terms of the trust cannot be changed upon the creator's death. A trust will provide for the distribution of your assets on or after your death. So, it is a substitute for a will and does not need to go through the probate procedure.
What is a "revocable" trust?
A revocable trust can be amended or revoked (cancelled) by the person who created it at any time during the creator's lifetime, as long as the creator is competent in the eyes of the law. This is different from an irrevocable trust which cannot be amended or revoked once it is validated.
What is a statutory will?
This is a document available for people in California, who have very small estates, with almost no assets. The document is a basic "fill-in-the-blank" form, which forms a legal will when the instructions are followed. This form does not avoid the probate process nor does it allow for customization.
What is a pour-over will?
A 'pour-over' will is used in combination with a trust. The will takes any assets that were not transferred to the trust and "pours" them into the trust upon death. The trust is used as the primary device by which you want to have your financial affairs managed. It will be established to avoid probate and hopefully, to take advantage of beneficial tax laws. A pour-over will ensures that any late acquired assets or assets not contemplated when the trust was established are put into the trust to be distributed per your wishes.
What is a power of attorney for financial matters?
A power of attorney for financial matters allows you to name an individual to handle all aspects of your financial affairs should you become incapacitated or are declared incompetent to handle your own affairs.
What is a durable power of attorney for health matters?
This is a "health directive" or "Living Will". It gives a named person the power to handle your medical affairs, in the event that you are unable to make competent medical decisions for yourself. Additionally, you may direct the doctors as to exactly what life-sustaining measures that you want to take or not to take in specific circumstances.
Probate is when the courts oversee the distribution of assets and property left by a will. It includes filing the decedent's will with the local probate court, identifying and taking inventory of the decedent's property, appraising the property, paying off debts and taxes, and then distributing what is left. This process is both time-consuming and expensive.
Our best advice is to try and avoid it when you can. When you take advantage of the professional legal assistance from The Cohen Law Offices, we can distribute your property faster, more privately than the courts, and for far less money.
Contact The Cohen Law Offices at 650-592-8600 to work with estate planning attorneys San Mateo residents trust. Get the representation you need for even your most complex probate and estate planning needs.