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Estate Planning

Four Documents to Empower Your Life and Death

In our complicated world, we plow through a lot of paperwork. From taxes, to buying or selling a home, to keeping finances in good order, there are lots of documents to make sure we are legally and fiscally compliant. Your estate plan contains four documents which rank as some of the most important paperwork you can construct, because they have the power to direct your decisions regarding your legal affairs, your health care decisions, and your loved ones' futures. These essential estate planning documents are: Your Will. A will is critical for your hard-earned assets to be directed to those...

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Estate Planning Under Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “ACT”) Passed Effective 2018

money growth

The ACT provides for many new income and estate tax features.  The purpose of this brief article is to concentrate on the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer ACT provisions.  The new ACT increases the federal estate and gift tax and generation skipping transfer tax exemption amounts from approximately $5 million to $10 million per individual with additional inflation adjustments as under prior law.  The inflation adjustments would increase the exemption amounts to approximately $11.2 million for an individual or combined $22.4 million for a married couple for 2018.  The increase in the estate and gift tax exemptions is subject...

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Don’t Procrastinate Your Estate Planning

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"I'm not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens." Like Woody Allen, most of us find just thinking about our own demise—let alone planning for it--to be somewhat unnerving and perhaps even downright unpleasant. Our advice is to plan for it anyway, and do it now. Here are five good reasons to not procrastinate making a plan for the succession of your estate and the care of your heirs: Peace of Mind. Our clients who make a plan regarding how their hard earned assets should be distributed upon death have less worry about their...

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Estate Planning Isn’t Just for People with Children

couple by water

It’s very common for clients to seek out estate planning when a child is born or when they are preparing to travel without children for the first time, but adults with children are not the only ones that need proper estate planning. In fact, in some ways it is more important than ever for childfree individuals and couples to consider a comprehensive estate plan. One primary issue that must be addressed for a person without children is: who will inherit your assets (e.g., real property, bank accounts, personal effects, etc.) upon your death? As set forth in the probate code, the...

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Estate Planning for Blended Families

Family Play

The unique nature of a blended family – that is, a family where one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage – necessitates careful estate planning. With a number of potentially difficult dynamics at play, the trustors (the creators of the trust) must carefully address issues such as difficult interpersonal relationships and planning for the entire family at death.  Even when relationships are harmonious amongst the spouses and the children - mutual children and children from prior marriages – estate planning is still vital. Many questions remain for the trustors, including: At the passing of the first spouse,...

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Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire


In the midst of all of the talk about potential federal estate tax repeal, many individuals have elected to postpone further estate planning trusting that the repeal will occur.  However, if you are a California citizen it appears that no such hope will exist.  Back in February of this year, California State Senator Scott Weiner, proposed a ballot measure that would provide for a California estate tax if the federal estate tax is repealed.  This tax would be equal to the federal estate tax that would have otherwise been paid by a California resident decedent.  Subsequently, on March 23rd of...

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Major Estate Planning Mistakes by Celebrities

Prepared Family

Because of some very obvious and egregious mistakes made by famous celebrities with respect to Estate Planning, all of us can learn and benefit and make sure that we eliminate these mistakes in our own planning. Actor James Gandolfini, best known for his role as Tony Soprano on the hit TV series, died at the age of 51 in 2013, The Gandolfini Estate Plan was based on a Will rather than a Trust.  Accordingly, his private affairs became public because of the Probate process.  His failure to remove any of his assets from his Estate will result in a 40% estate...

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Asset Protection Planning


Many times we think of Asset Protection Planning only with respect to potential creditors who might sue us.  However, in the event that you have substantial separate property and are planning to remarry you may want not only to consider a pre-nuptial agreement, but an Asset Protection Planning structure in addition.  Many affluent and wealthy investors, executives and celebrities have found out that divorce can be very expensive in spite of the pre-marital agreement.  Building a protective plan should be a top priority for individuals of high net worth.  Everyone who has any assets should examine their situation from the...

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Photo of a Home

Sarah Spenless is an elderly widow with just one asset holding value: her home, which is worth $500,000. She would like her three children to inherit the home. She doesn’t want to spend the money to create a living trust, and she doesn’t want her children to have to go through a probate proceeding. With situations like hers in mind, the California legislature ushered in a new way to pass property to a beneficiary upon death: the California Transfer on Death Deed (“TOD deed”). Assembly Bill 139, effective January 1, 2016, was hailed by lawmakers as a way to avoid...

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New Medi-Cal Estate Recovery Law: Another great reason for a revocable living trust


California’s current Medi-Cal recovery rules are primed for a big change. Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law new provisions limiting reimbursement to the state for Medi-Cal benefits received. On January 1, 2017 these new provisions become effective, and for those of us who die on or after that date the creation of a revocable living trust becomes ever more important.   Under current law, the state can make claims on the estate of a deceased person for any Medi-Cal benefits they received at age 55 or older. Liquid assets may have to be surrendered, as well as a residence, as a...

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