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Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc.
Serving clients in Santa Rosa and San Francisco, California and greater Bay Area region

Trust and Estate Planning Basics

estate-planning.jpgTrust and estate planning can be difficult to navigate without help. Whether you are planning out your end-of-life wishes for your property and assets or just wanting to organize your estate-related plans, there is a lot of information out there pertaining to trusts and estates. For your trust and estate planning needs, it is a good idea to hire an attorney experienced in these areas of law. Trust and estate planning can be complex, particularly if you have significant assets or you have many detailed plans for your property.

What is an Estate?

The term estate refers to any type of property a person owns, both individually and jointly. An estate may include real estate, vehicles, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and jewelry. It also may include money and interest that a person is later entitled to, such as securities dividends and insurance proceeds.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the method by which people decide with specificity how their property and assets should be managed both during their lifetime and also after their death. In addition to resolving issues regarding property and assets, estate planning may also include medical planning.

One major aspect of medical planning often included in the estate planning process is advance medical directives. An advance medical directives document sets forth in detail a person's preferences and wishes regarding medical treatments and interventions. You can also choose to have a person designated to be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself.

The benefit of having an advance medical directive in place is that in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own medical decisions, the choices that you have listed in your medical directive will guide the medical care you receive. For example, if you have indicated that you do not want any extraordinary life-saving measures taken, then your medical care team will not use a life support machine, and you will be able to pass away peacefully according to your wishes.

Estate Planning - Wills

A will is one of the most common estate planning documents. By creating a will, you can determine how your property will be distributed and to whom. You can also allocate a guardian for any minor children. Within your will, you can also direct someone to act as your personal representative or executor of your will. This person will be designated to manage your estate after your death. The duties of the personal representative or executor of your will include paying any necessary taxes and debts (from your assets) and then distribute any property that remains according to your wishes as set forth in your will.

Is a Will Sufficient for My Estate Planning Needs?

For many people, drafting a will that includes a distribution plan for their assets along with a detailed medical directive plan is sufficient for their estate planning needs. However, for some people, it may be beneficial to set up a trust instead of, or in addition to a will.

Setting up a trust may be a better approach for individuals who own real estate, have one or more businesses or interests in one or more businesses, own gross assets over $150,000, and who may be responsible for estate taxes. People who wish to have substantial control over their property after they die may choose to have a trust set up rather than a will. Additionally, people who have a child with special needs may wish to have a trust set up to ensure that they are properly being cared for after their death. Individuals who have a child or children from prior marriages who may have serious conflicts with their living spouse may also want to set up a trust to make sure that their wishes are carried out and do not become the subject of ongoing litigation if one party is not happy with the designation of assets.

Estate Planning - Trusts

A trust is a legal arrangement wherein a person or group of people are granted the right to manage and hold specific assets. There are several different ways that a trust can be set up and administered. One common type of estate planning trust is a revocable trust. A revocable trust can have its terms changed at any time. Trusts may also be irrevocable and will then be unable to be amended or changed in any way once they have been created.

The most common form of estate planning trust is a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust gives a person the ability to control the assets of the trust during his or her lifetime; however, the ownership of property in the trust will automatically shift to the named trustee in the event of that person's death. A revocable living trust is similar to a will, with a major difference in that the trust property will not go through probate at death. This can save time and money for the beneficiaries.

Estate planning can be a complicated process. At Galanti and Copenhaver, we specialize in trust and estate law and ensure that your assets and property will be managed according to your wishes. To see how we can help you, contact us at (707) 867-0787 or fill out our online contact form.

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