In a continuing effort to assist my clients in protecting their hard-earned property, I offer comprehensive estate planning. It is quite dismaying to find out just how much the government will grab if you do not take appropriate precautions. Like anything else, of course, every situation is unique. The first question we'll tackle is whether you might need a simple will or a living trust.
Wills vs. Trusts
A will is a document that contains instructions about what to do with your assets when you die. A will can be one of the easier estate planning documents to write. A will allows you to appoint someone to collect your assets, pay your bills and distribute the remainder. A will can direct who gets custody of your children. And a will can also limit the use or spending that your legal heirs may engage in. A will must be probated (an expensive, intrusive and public legal process) when you die. Also, since a will goes into effect upon death, it cannot give you protection if you become incapacitated. Should that happen, the court could step in and take control of your assets. If you have titled assets, it is wise to consider a living trust.
A living trust avoids probate and allows you to maintain control of your assets during your lifetime (even if incapacitated) and after your death. When you transfer your assets from your name into that of the trust, you no longer legally own anything so there is nothing for the court to control. Living trusts typically include other assets as well, such as jewelry and art or other untitled assets. But the good news is you keep absolute control of the assets in your trust and you have the freedom to do anything with the property that you could have done before the trust, such as buy or sell property, change the trust, or cancel the trust, because it is a revocable trust. And, if you are married, a provision might be applicable that could significantly reduce your estate taxes
Other estate planning considerations
Living trusts have their advantages, no doubt. But there are other kinds of trusts that might be more beneficial for you depending on your goals and how elaborate your estate is. Rather than engage in formal treatment of the subject of irrevocable trusts (and possibly put my diligent readers who have gotten this far to sleep), I would ask that you contact me me if you would like to discuss these other options. Also, please see my links page for further information.
Following are other commonly used estate planning documents that you might have heard of but are unsure of their purpose:
A durable power of attorney for asset management is a legal document that gives another person full or limited legal authority to sign your name on your behalf in your absence. It is valid through incapacity and it ends at death.
A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document that allows you to give someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself. It is also called a health care proxy or a medical power of attorney.
How to proceed
The first step is to call or e-mail my office to set up an initial consultation. Once we've done that, I will either e-mail or snail mail an easy financial organizer for you to complete prior to our first meeting. It is very thorough and a lot of it might not even apply to you, but that's okay. It will get us started on the right track and help us in deciding whether you need a will or a living trust.
The Law Offices of Morris & Woerner, P.C.
Stephanie Morris and Dean Woerner, Attorneys at Law
1627 Twentieth Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
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