Mike assists clients in creating practical and effective estate planning documents to meet their individual personal desires, while minimizing problems and achieving tax advantages.

  1. Why does planning matter?
    1. What happens if you are injured, or become incapacitated (physically or mentally)?
      Who is allowed to make health care decisions for you? Who has authority to pay your bills?  Who can make decisions about management of your assets? Without planning, these matters are usually handled by a court proceeding called a “conservatorship.” These proceedings can cause delays, be time consuming, and be expensive. If you do not name someone you trust to handle these matters, then the State of California has laws which designate who acts on your behalf.
    2. What happens when you die?
      Where do your assets pass? Who has authority to get information about, and distribute, your assets? Without planning, these matters are usually handled by a formal court proceeding called “probate administration.” If you do not name someone to handle these matters, then the State of California has laws which designate who acts to handle administration of your assets, and who receives your assets at the close of probate administration.
    3. Will there be taxes payable following your death?
      There may be estate or inheritance taxes payable at your death, income taxes payable on sales by (or distributions to) your estate or beneficiaries, and possible real property tax increases (Proposition 13).  Click here for a general overview of these tax rules.
  2. You can decide how your assets and health care are managed, but you have to act while you are still competent.
  3. What does an estate plan typically include?
    1. Revocable Trust.  Click here for a general discussion of this device.
    2. Last Will and Testament. A valid Will may designate where your assets pass at your death, and may name someone (“executor”) to collect your assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute your assets to your designated beneficiaries. If you have a revocable trust, then the Will is a simple “pour-over” device, which states that if any assets are subjected to probate administration, the assets are to be distributed to your Trust.
    3. Advance Health Care Directive. This device may name someone to make health care decisions for you (when you are unable to do so). This document may be very specific about your desires and directions (funeral desires, heroic measures, organ donations, etc.).
    4. Power of Attorney Over Assets. You may name someone to sign your name (when you are unable to do so) to manage assets which stand in your name alone.
    5. Nomination of Conservator. You may name someone to manage your assets and make health care decisions for you if you do not have any valid health care directive or power of attorney, and if court proceedings are required.
    6. Nomination of Guardian. You may name someone to raise your children (who are under eighteen years of age) if you become incapacitated or die prematurely.
    7. Title documents. These should include deeds to real property interests, investment and cash accounts, beneficiary designations on IRAs and other retirement plan benefits, beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, and a review of whether you should exercise any “powers” that you may have over assets or trusts created by other persons (like your parents) for your benefit. Property title holding may generate significant income tax and real property tax benefits to you and your beneficiaries.