Table of Contents
Estate Planning is a comprehensive strategy that protects your person and assets during your life, and lays out how you want your estate distributed after you pass away. Having a bulletproof estate plan gives you the peace of mind of knowing you are protected and that your intentions will be fulfilled.
An essential part of this plan is protecting yourself from having an unwanted conservatorship imposed on you. You will name in advance who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you are unable to. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm will carefully draft your estate plan to put you in the best position to avoid an unwanted conservatorship of your person and your estate.
Elaine will create a plan for you to protect your assets by using her skills in tax planning and asset protection. There are many taxes that can affect your estate. By reducing exposure to potential tax and other liability, more of your estate can be preserved to pass on to your family.
An effective estate plan clearly lays out what your intentions are for your estate. It seeks to avoid the involvement of the probate court in settling your affairs after you die. It strives to preserve your assets by minimizing any tax liability and keeping administrative costs low. Elaine will help you take the vitally important action to do your estate planning as soon as possible so your mental competence cannot be questioned and your plan invalidated.
A Living Trust is a legal instrument that you create to hold your assets so that, upon your death, or if you become incapacitated, your estate is not controlled by the probate court. Livings trusts are an essential tool in Bulletproof Estate Planning – to fulfill your intentions and securely pass your legacy on to your family.
A trust holds the legal title to your property and assets. In most cases, you will manage your own trust. In some cases, it is managed by a family member or a legal entity with a fiduciary duty to hold and use that property for your, or another’s benefit, depending on the purpose of the trust. A trust can be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust is the most commonly used type of trust. Irrevocable trusts typically are used only for special purposes, such as asset protection. A revocable trust can be changed or canceled (revoked) after it is created, whereas an irrevocable trust cannot.
A properly prepared living trust will prevent the local probate court from getting control of the assets in your estate after you die. You must transfer certain assets into the trust during your lifetime. The trust is then the legal owner of those assets. Title to assets like your real estate, bank accounts, investments accounts, promissory notes, timeshares, mineral rights, and stocks can and should be transferred into a revocable trust. However, the title of other certain assets is not transferred into a living trust. Assets like life insurance, retirement accounts, pension plans, and TOD/POD accounts (that have pre-designated beneficiaries) do not get transferred into a living trust. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm will guide you as to what to do with each and every asset so that your living trust is funded properly and your estate is protected.
Trust Administration is the process in which a trust estate is formally collected, settled, and distributed according to the law and the specific terms of the living trust. This happens upon the death of the person who created the trust, i.e., the Settlor.
The successor trustee is responsible for the trust administration. This typically includes debt settlement, payment of expenses and taxes, transferring property to the beneficiaries of the trust, and any other administrative tasks to close out or settle the trust estate of the Settlor who has died. This must occur according to a timetable and other rules of law, and the terms of the trust. This is a position of great responsibility. The successor trustee has a fiduciary duty, and is potentially personally liable for any missteps or malfeasance.
Your choice of successor trustee is an important one. A Bulletproof Estate Plan makes sure the right person handles the trust on your behalf. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm will provide the vital advice needed to guide the trustee through the sometimes rough waters of the trust administration process.
Probate is the formal court process that governs how your estate is handled if it exceeds a certain value (In CA currently $166,250.). If you die leaving only a will (i.e. without a living trust), or no will at all, your estate must pass through probate after you die. A primary purpose of Bulletproof Estate Planning is to eliminate, if possible, any involvement by the probate court in the disposition of your estate.
The Probate Court oversees this process. The court validates and approves the administration of the will. If there is no will (a.k.a. intestate), the court appoints a personal representative who gathers and distributes the estate property according to the laws of intestate succession. After 5 years, if no legal heirs are found, the estate becomes the property of the State of California.
Probate gives a single judge wide discretion on how your estate is processed. The Probate Court is where virtually anyone can challenge your will, be they a family member or outside party. It is also where legal and administrative fees pile up. It is a time consuming, lengthy process that can take years, and eats up the assets of the estate along the way.
Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm will help you create a Bulletproof Estate Plan that protects you and your assets, and fulfills your intentions after you pass away – without involving the probate court. However, if you find yourself involved in a probate process because of a loved one or a family member, Elaine can administer an estate in the probate court on your behalf.
Small Estate Administration
Small Estate Administration is the informal non-court process of collecting and distributing a decedent’s estate. If you die without a living trust, leaving only a will, or no will at all, and the value of your estate does not exceed $166,250., the estate does not need to be formally probated in California.
The estate assets are collected through an affidavit process. No documents are required to be filed with the probate court. Certain assets are not included in the calculation of the $166,250. limit. They include, but are not limited to: assets held in trust, joint accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, death benefits, registered vehicles, TOD/POD accounts, and other accounts with a named beneficiary designation. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm can help you to determine if you need to administer an estate under this process, and also with the process itself.
Conservatorship and Guardianship
Conservatorship is a legal status imposed on you when a court rules you are incapacitated and can no longer manage your own personal and/or financial affairs. The court-appointed conservator then has total control over every aspect of your (the “conservatee”) life. A conservator even has the authority to (re)-create your estate plan.
A primary goal of Bulletproof Estate Planning is to make sure you never lose your personal freedom by having a conservatorship imposed on you by the probate court.
When your life is placed under the legal status of a conservatorship, you lose all ability to run your own financial affairs or even make your own medical decisions. A single judge can rule, according to his or her discretion, that you no longer have legal capacity in this regard. Typically, this is done for an elderly incapacitated adult who never had an effective living trust estate plan in place. However, this process is sometimes abused to gain control over someone and their assets. Bulletproof Estate Planning can help prevent this by giving clear legal authority to the person of your choice to manage your affairs and make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated for any reason at any point in your life. Because this sometimes happens suddenly and without warning, having a bulletproof estate plan established beforehand is imperative. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm is uniquely prepared to help you do just that.
Corporations and Asset Protection
Your business is a dynamic asset, and special care is needed to safeguard it. As part of an effective estate plan, the Andrews Law Firm is experienced at setting up the right kind of corporate structure to help you protect your business, and certain assets, from liens, lawsuits and judgements. Your business is the living, breathing expression of your life’s work. A Bulletproof Estate Plan seeks to conserve and maximize the value of your business according to your intentions.
Limited liability companies, corporations, and irrevocable trusts are typically used to accomplish these purposes. These days, it’s not enough to have just any entity in place. To be effective, your corporate entity or asset protection trust has to be set up properly, compliant with state law, and carefully integrated into your overall estate plan so that you don’t end up with unintended negative results.
Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm will help you create a Bulletproof Estate plan that preserves the assets and maximizes the value of your business, whether you want to pass it on intact or use its value for the benefit of your heirs.
Tax Planning provides a strategy to minimize or eliminate the tax liability of your estate. A key aspect of your Bulletproof Estate Plan is using Tax Planning to ensure that the bulk of your estate goes to your heirs, and not, inadvertently, to taxes.
Capital gains, property, and estate taxes are just some of the types of taxes that can virtually wipe out your estate. Too often, a family business, whether a farm or a ranch or a storefront, must be sold to pay the taxes. Generations of family heritage can be tragically lost under avoidable circumstances.
Chances are you have already paid taxes many times over on the assets in your estate. Unintentional and avoidable tax liability incurred upon your death can destroy the integrity and value of your estate. There are many ways to structure your assets to avoid this. Tax laws change all the time. It’s important to review and update your estate plan accordingly. Elaine and the Andrews Law Firm can help you protect your family legacy with a Bulletproof Estate Plan – and preserve your estate to pass on to future generations.