Estate Planning 101- What is an Estate Plan?

 What is an estate plan?

Estate Plan

Here at Odgers Law Group, one question that we hear a lot is: what is an estate plan? An estate plan is a series of documents that allows an individual or a family to control their assets and health care decisions while they are 1) alive and healthy, 2) upon incapacity, and 3) after they have passed away. Through estate planning, an individual or family can transfer what they have to whom they want, when they want, all while avoiding unnecessary attorneys fees, court costs, and taxes.

What is Included in a Basic Estate Plan?

Each estate plan should be tailored to the wishes and needs of the individual (or family) who is creating the estate plan.

Lets use a hypothetical husband and wife who live in California as an example. Assume that this couple has 2 children that are 8 years old and 6 years old. Lets further assume that the husband and wife own a house in  San Diego that is currently worth $650,000.00.

Some concerns that this family may want to address are:

  1. Who would be the guardian of their two children if both parents were to become incapacitated or deceased before the children turn 18?
  2. Who would like they like to have their assets go to after they pass away? (Also known as the beneficiaries)
  3. If they would like their two children to be their beneficiaries, how, and when, would they like their children to receive the property?
  4. Will their assets pass as efficiently as possible? Will they have to pay unnecessary taxes,  attorneys fees, or court fees?
  5. Will their estate have to go through Probate? (A legal process where a court decides how your assets will be divided and who they will be given to. This is a costly, public, and time consuming process that reduces the total value of the estate. In California, a few of the ways an estate can avoid the full probate process are: by holding assets in a trust, or if the total value of the estate  is under $150,000.00 (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 13050, 13100) or with real property valued under $50,000.00 Code (§§ 13200 to 13208).
  6. What can be done to help ease the stress and burden of the surviving family members during their time of grief?

By setting up a family estate plan, the husband and wife can plan and provide answers to all of the above listed questions.

A family estate plan usually will include:

  1. A Joint Revocable Living Trust and Trust Summary
  2. Pour-Over Will (with Guardian provisions)
  3. Health Care Power of Attorneys
  4. Financial Power of Attorneys
  5. Personal Property Memorandum
  6. HIPAA Authorizations
  7. Certificate of Trust
  8. Living Will
  9. Memorial Instructions
  10. Assignment of Personal Property
  11. Funding Memo
  12. All Notary and Filing Fees included
  13. Estate Planning Organization Binder and USB with a soft copy of the executed documents

The major benefits of a Family Estate Plan are:

  • Naming a guardian for minor children;
  • Controlling how and when your assets will be distributed (and managed) while you are alive and well, upon incapacity, and then upon death;
  • Appointing a health care agent to make health care decisions upon incapacity;
  • Protecting and transferring your digital assets;
  • Avoiding probate (a costly and time-consuming court process for distributing assets after death); and
  • Organizing all of your assets and creating a road map for your family to help them during a time of grief.

What to expect in the estate planning process:

  1. Intake: The first step is to fill out our Estate Planning Client Intake.  Clients should fill this out to the best of their ability and scan and e-mail it to our office prior to our initial meeting. We do not need detailed specifics, and if you are unsure of a a question, or are having a hard time making a decisions, simply make note on the intake and skip the questions.
  2. Schedule an Initial MeetingDuring our initial meeting we will be able to further explain the estate planning process and evaluate our clients specific concerns in relation to their assets. Additionally, we will answer any questions you have on the intake sheet and help facilitate the decision making process on any areas where you feel stuck. If you are comfortable moving forwards, we will prepare the attorney client agreement for the clients signature. We request that 1/2 of the total fee be paid at the time of signing.
  3. Document Review: After the Initial Meeting, we will send you a draft of all of the documents listed above, a summary of the trust, and a confirmation page for you to verify that all names, addresses, and dates within the documents are correct. Some clients prefer to read through the documents on their own and make notes on changes they would like to make, while others prefer to come into the office and have us go through the documents with them. We are happy to assist in any way that we can, and this will increase our fees. Our number one priority is to make sure each client fully understands their estate plan.
  4. Signing Meeting: After we have made any final changes to the estate planning documents we will schedule a signing meeting with a notary to finalize the trust. At this meeting the client should bring their ID with them for the notary. At the signing, we will review all of your assets and establish a plan for either transferring title to the assets  into the trust. If the assets do not go into the trust, then we will verify that the correct beneficiary is named. We will take care of transfer title to certain assets, and point out the assets that the client is responsible for transferring.  In addition, we will provide the client with a “Trust Funding Memorandum” with instructions for keeping the trust properly funded in the future.

Feel free to contact our office if you would like to schedule a time to discuss setting up an estate plan.




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