Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
California State Bar
Board of Legal Specialization
Phone: (925) 218-8984
5674 Stoneridge Drive Suite 202
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Estate Planning Considerations
The following are some issues to consider before meeting with an estate planning attorney: Download a Printable Copy (PDF)
TRUSTEE AND SUCCESSOR TRUSTEES OF YOUR FAMILY TRUST
Whom do you wish to name as trustee and successor trustees of your Family Trust?
Your trustee will act when you (and your spouse if you are married) are both incapacitated or have both passed away. This person will need to be able to inventory all trust assets, obtain valuations of trust assets, pay all valid debts, and make distributions to beneficiaries according to the trust document. The trustee will need to keep good financial records and will need to devote time to making the necessary phone calls and completing paperwork to carry out the trust duties. Please note that a trustee need not live locally to be effective, as much as the trustee be organized and able to deal financial assets.
EXECUTOR AND ALTERNATE EXECUTORS OF YOUR WILL
Whom do you wish to name as executor and alternate executors of your Will?
An executor will not act until after you have passed away. If you have a Family Trust, a executor will be involved only if an asset was not property titled in your Family Trust as of the date of your passing. An executor will have similar functions to that of the trustee of your Family Trust. (Most times it makes sense for the executor designations to be the same as those for trustees.)
GUARDIAN AND ALTERNATE GUARDIANS FOR YOUR MINOR CHILDREN
If you have children under 18 years, whom do you wish to nominate as primary guardian and alternate guardians of them in your Will?
Consideration should be given to those individuals who share your values and who will raise your children in accordance with your wishes.
BENEFICIARIES OF YOUR ESTATE
To whom or what organizations do you wish to leave your property?
If you have children, the typical and "normal" disposition is to leave assets to children in equal shares. If a child passes away before you do, then the property which would have been distributed to the child will instead pass to the child's children (i.e., your grandchildren). But if all of your lineal descendants pass away before you, you need to decide whether you wish for assets to be distributed to heirs-at-law (see glossary for definition) or to a selected charity or charities.
ASSETS AND LIABILITIES
What are your assets and liabilities?
You should compile a list of all of your assets (including retirement accounts and life insurance) and liabilities and provide the most recent monthly statement for each bank account, non-retirement brokerage/mutual fund account, and retirement account. Also, you should provide the face page for each life insurance policy (containing custodian information, policy number and face amount). Include any business assets, partnerships, savings bonds, promissory notes, buy-sell agreements and divorce decrees (since they may contain requirements regarding life insurance, etc.).
How Does Intestate Succession Work? (PDF)
California has a Will for you if you don't make one yourself. Here is how California has provided for your estate.
Is My Estate Subject To Probate? (PDF)
Do you think that you have a "simple" estate that will not be probated? Read here to find out!
How Can I Benefit From A Trust? (PDF)
Everyone, regardless if they have a "simple" estate can benefit from a trust. And a trust is a simple concept too.
What is Wrong With Joint Tenancy? (PDF)
Joint tenancy is a dangerous Will substitute. Here are some of the hidden traps that will cost you money.
How Does The Gift Tax Work? (PDF)
Did you know that the IRS cares about what you give? There's a gift tax law and here is how to stay out of gift tax troubles!
How Do I Calculate My Required Minimum Distributions from My IRAs? (PDF)
Are you 70-1/2 years old and must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs? Here is a quick guideline regarding calculating your RMD.
What Do I Do When A Loved One Has Died? (PDF)
If you have just lost a loved one and need some preliminary guidance on what to you, you should read this (and then seek an attorney's help).
How Does A Crummey Trust Work? (PDF)
Do you want to make annual gifts for a young child's benefit and be able to determine how such funds are distributed to a child? This is a brief overview on how to do it.
How Do Charitable Remainder Trusts Work? (PDF)
Do you have highly appreciated property that you would like to cash out but avoid the capital gains tax? Here's how to do it!
How Does an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust Work? (PDF)
Life insurance is counted in calculating the value of your estate for estate tax purposes. Here is how your life insurance can help your family, but remain free from estate taxes.