Monday, June 23, 2008

What is Estate Planning and Why Should I Consider It?

Most people that hear I do estate planning predictably respond, “I don’t have that many assets, and my family knows what I want when I die. I don’t need to do any estate planning.” Usually, these individuals have never had a major family conflict after the death of a love one and have never gone through the probate process in California. Once they experience one or the other, people generally find that the court proceedings leave the beneficiaries of an estate much worse off than they would have been with some basic planning. A well-known maxim is “if you are failing to plan then you are planning to fail.” Too often that saying comes true for families that do not take the time to do proper estate planning. Estate planning protects the assets you have worked hard for and protects your family from additional burden in a time of grief.

Once proper estate planning is completed, the client and his or her family will experience several benefits. Typically, estate planning will provide for the most efficient transfer of wealth, reducing the amount of time, fees, taxes, and burden that the family must endure. For most people in California, this planning is first focused on probate avoidance, as the probate process is long and expensive. Higher net worth clients in California and other states should also do estate and gift tax planning to ensure that their wealth passes to the chosen beneficiaries with the least amount of transfer taxes. For every estate plan, regardless of where a person lives, there will be many different considerations involving several areas of the law.

Depending on the family, these different statutes may apply: Probate Law, Trust Law, Corporations Law, Partnership Law, Federal and State Tax Law, Laws regarding Asset Protection, Bankruptcy Law, Property Law, and Family Law. A well-prepared plan should protect the client from the adverse consequences of any and all laws that could apply to them. This blog will deal with issues from all of these areas of law in the states where I am licensed (currently California, Nevada, and Arizona). I hope that you find some of the answers that you are looking for. If you have questions that are not answered in these posts, feel free to contact me at and we can discuss your question in greater detail.

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