Today, more people have access to financial information and are generally aware of the importance of estate planning. While many believe that having a will is enough, however, there are a number of other financial goals that can be achieved through the use of an array of contemporary estate planning tools.
GM Law, PC provides comprehensive estate planning services to individuals, couples and families in and around Santa Barbara County and throughout the state of California. We are well versed in applicable trusts and estate laws and have a well earned reputation for helping our clients preserve their legacies.
A Primer on Estate Planning Documents
Depending on the size of the estate, some clients may only require a will-based estate plan. In short, a Last Will and Testament clarifies how an individual’s assets will be managed and distributed upon death, and designates a personal representative to carry out the instructions of the will. Additionally, a will is the only way to name guardians for minor children.
Because a will must go through the probate process, which can be time consuming and costly, we often recommend utilizing a number of other estate planning tools, including:
- Revocable Living Trust – A properly designed and funded trust allows the trust maker, or grantor, to continue managing the trust assets during his or her lifetime. A living trust can also help to plan for incapacity by designating a successor trustee to manage the trust assets for the benefit of the grantor. Additionally, a successor trustee is responsible for carrying out the terms of the trust and distributing the assets to beneficiaries upon the grantor’s death. The main benefit of a living trust is that it does not go through the probate, since the grantor no longer owns the assets. Ultimately, this can save time and money and maintain the privacy of the financial arrangements.
- Irrevocable Trust – Unlike a living trust, an irrevocable trust cannot be altered or modified during the grantor’s lifetime. There are different types of trusts that can be established to achieve a number of objectives such as providing for a loved one with special needs, long-term care planning (e.g., Medi-Cal trusts), charitable giving, avoiding estate taxes and asset protection.
- Durable Power of Attorney – This document names another individual to handle a person’s personal and business affairs in the event of incapacity such as managing bank and investment accounts, paying debts and managing household expenses.
- Advance Health Care Directive – This document (also known as a health care proxy, or a durable power of attorney for health care) designates an agent to make decisions about the medical treatment a person should receive in the event of incapacity, according to his or her preferences. In California, this directive also declares the type of life preserving medical care a person should receive or have withheld in the event he or she becomes incapacitated (in some states this is called a living will.)
- Guardianship – Created in order to protect an individual who is incapable of caring for him or herself due to a catastrophic injury, incapacitating physical illness or psychological disorder.
At GM Law, we believe that creating an estate plan is the only responsible way to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones. By failing to do so, the court will make decisions about the distribution of your assets according to the state’s intestacy laws, which may not agree with your wishes. Our capable attorney can help to create a plan that achieves all of your financial goals.
Santa Barbara Estate Planning Attorney
Unlike other law firms, GM Law believes that estate planning is about more than merely preparing documents and that there is no “one size fits all” plan. By understanding your individual circumstances and family dynamics, we will custom tailor an estate plan that best suits your unique needs.
We will patiently guide you through the process and help you take advantage of the benefits of a number of estate planning tools. Whether it’s planning for incapacity, naming guardians for your minor children, or protecting your assets, you will have peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will not be forced to ask the court for the authority to make these decisions. Above all, we will work closely with you to design a plan that helps to avoid probate, minimize estate taxes, and passes assets to your heirs privately.
Moreover, we believe that estate planning is not a once and done arrangement. With this in mind, we provide ongoing counsel and routinely review our clients’ estate plans to ensure that they consider inevitable lifetime changes such as marriage, having children, and accumulating wealth, among others. Our services also include business succession planning for individuals with closely held businesses and professional practices. Finally, we are well versed in the customs and rules of the probate courts and routinely handle matters such as probate and estate administration and trusts and estate litigation.
At GM Law, we believe that estate planning is for everyone, regardless of their financial status, and always put our clients best interests first. Our team leverages its legal knowledge and skill to design estate plans for clients from all walks of life, including middle income families, high net worth individuals, as well as those with small estates. If you need assistance creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today for a free consultation or complete the contact form on our website.