If you're like most people and know very little — if anything at all —
about estate planning and why it's crucially important, don't feel badly!
You've come to the exact right place.
During our Life + Legacy Planning Session, I'll take as much time as necessary to explain and answer any questions you may have about the fundamentals of planning — and then, if you choose to proceed, we'll dive into detail and craft a customized plan that aligns with your specific circumstances and achieves your personal goals.
In the meantime, check out the following FAQs to learn more about the basics of Life + Legacy Planning, as well as our philosophies and approach. And, of course, don't hesitate to schedule a free phone chat or shoot over an email anytime with any other questions or concerns.
What is Life + Legacy Planning?
It’s our enhanced approach to traditional estate planning.
Here’s what typically happens ...
Most estate planning attorneys will churn out a set of legal documents that you sign and then place on a shelf somewhere, glad that you completed the task and never have to think about it again. Maybe, hopefully, you properly transferred your assets into your trust so that it’s not a meaningless stack of paper. But when laws change, your children mature and assets grow, that plan becomes obsolete — and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do when needed. And it certainly doesn’t pass down to your loved ones your most priceless assets such as your values, family histories, and memories.
With Life + Legacy Planning, you get all the necessary legal documents — and so much more. We bill on a flat fee basis, and take the time to really get you know you, your goals, and family dynamics, so that we can customize a plan that’s tailor-made for you.
Also, we have processes in place to ensure that:
your minor children will never, not even for a short period of time, end up in the hands of strangers or anyone you don’t want
your assets are transferred into your trust
your plan stays up to date, with free plan reviews every three years
your intangible assets are captured for your loved ones
Plus, our focus on documenting your personal legacy will help you live your life with more clarity and intention, focusing on the activities and values that are most meaningful to you. That’s exactly why we call it Life + Legacy Planning.
I’m Young, Healthy and/or Not Wealthy. Why Should I Bother With an Estate Plan?
Perhaps the biggest misconception about estate planning is that it’s only for the elderly or the rich. In fact, every single adult from the age of 18 should have some sort of plan in place.
Otherwise, if you were to suddenly become incapacitated or die (say, from a bicycle or car accident):
You would have no say as to who would get custody of your minor children.
You would also have no say as to who, how, and when your assets would be inherited.
Your loved ones — in many cases, even your spouse — would not be able to access your accounts, even if just to pay the rent or mortgage.
Your loved ones could end up in conflict over any emergency medical decisions or your end-of-life wishes. And, if the person you would like to make those decisions for you isn’t related to you by marriage or blood — for example, a life partner or best friend — s/he would have no legal authority to do so.
A court would make these decisions on your behalf, costing your loved ones precious time and money, all while they’re grieving your loss.
Proper estate planning, however, can help avoid all of these issues.
What is Probate and Why Is It Best to Avoid It?
Many consider probate to be a “lawsuit you bring against yourself with your own money for the benefit of your creditors.”
Here in California, probate — the court process through which assets are transferred to a deceased person’s heirs — can take up to two years and cost a substantial sum. Probate is also public, leaving heirs susceptible to creditors and predators. It’s the last thing grieving loved ones should have to face in their time of mourning.
Probate, however, can be easily avoided by creating and properly transferring assets into a living trust.
What is a Living Trust and Why Should I Consider Getting One?
A revocable living trust is a legal document that enables assets to be re-titled and held in its name. Creating a living trust and transferring your assets into it can avoid the lengthy time, significant cost, and public nature of probate.
Typically, assets can be distributed to heirs in a private setting, all in a matter of weeks. While a living trust costs more than a will upfront, it can save considerable sums of money upon your death. Other benefits could include estate tax avoidance, as well as multiple probates should you own property in various states.
What Legal Documents Are Included in a Life + Legacy Plan?
Most of our plans include:
Revocable Living Trust. As described above, a living trust that is properly "funded" with assets can circumvent the lengthy, costly, and public probate process.
Pourover Will. While the living trust will do most of the "heavy lifting" when it comes to the distribution of your assets, this relatively short will can help ensure that any assets not properly held in your trust at the time of your death can be transferred into it and distributed according to the trust's terms.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney. This document will help ensure that, if you become incapacitated or die, whoever is designated as your agent or attorney-in-fact will have immediate authority to access your accounts.
Living Will, Health Care Directive, HIPPA Waiver. Collectively, these documents will: allow you to designate an agent(s) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself; ensure that your agent(s) has legal authority to access your medical records; and identify your end-of-life decisions regarding resuscitation, prolongment of life, and organ/tissue donation.
Kids Protection Plan®. If you have a minor child or children at home, this comprehensive package of documents — which includes, among other things, both short and long-term guardian nominations, power of attorney for the care of your minor child, designation of a health care agent, important medical information, and instructions to caregivers — will cover all the bases to keep your kids safe and in the hands of those whom you love and trust.
What is A "Legacy Library?"
While the core legal documents described above form the foundation of any estate plan, there is SO much more to your legacy than your bank accounts, investments, and personal property. That's why we take a holistic approach to the process and build in — to every single plan — a process for documenting your intangible assets: your memories, family stories, values, and principles. Once the documents are signed, we'll conduct and record an interview based on questions you pre-select, so that your loved ones will be able to enjoy this most precious asset for generations to come. And, every three years, when we reconvene for a free plan review, we'll do another interview, continually adding to and enriching your "Legacy Library."
What Are Your Firm Philosophies?
We recognize just how important, personal, and — at times, emotional — the Life + Legacy planning process can be, and we consider it an honor to help guide you through it. Gaining an understanding of your own core values and family dynamics allows us to better serve you, and so we take the time to get to know you on a personal level at the outset so that we can help design a custom plan that completely aligns with your objectives.
To foster this connection and encourage communication, we work on an agreed-upon flat fee basis — so you'll never have to worry about added expenses for texts, emails, or phone calls.
What Sort of Clients Do You Serve?
Given our enhanced approach to child protection planning, we do work most frequently with parents of minor children. But we regularly serve all of the following:
● individuals who want to pass down their legacy and identify those who would care for them and handle their affairs upon incapacity or death;
● single or two-parent families who wish to protect their children and preserve their assets;
● life partners with or without children who want to legally document their mutual intentions upon incapacity or death;
● blended families negotiating the delicate challenges of forging relationships between children and new spouses; and
● families looking to ensure that their special needs children will always be lovingly cared for and eligible to receive government assistance.
How Do I Get Started?
Once we set up a time to meet, we'll send you a welcome packet and — to ensure that our time together is as worthwhile as possible — a worksheet that you'll fill out in advance. The worksheet will help you identify your goals and inventory your assets; it will serve as the foundation to your plan and will undoubtedly make you feel super organized!
What Does the Planning Process Look Like?
During our initial two-hour Life + Legacy Planning Session, we'll start off by taking a close look at what would happen to your loved ones and assets if something were to happen to you. If there's anything about that scenario that doesn't sit well with you, we'll discuss how we can fix it and figure out which planning options are the best fit for you and your family. Then we'll design your plan.
About four weeks later, you'll sign all the documents and begin the process of transferring your assets into the trust; about four weeks after that, we'll get together again for your legacy interview and you'll receive your final binder(s) of documents.
Every three years after that, we'll meet again for a free plan review and interview so that your plan stays current and your Legacy Library grows richer.
What Does Planning Cost?
Every client has different goals, needs, and budget – that's why we offer a variety of planning levels and "a la carte" options. So, once we educate you on the various choices, you'll feel empowered to pick your own price, based on whether you opt for more enhanced trust planning protections or decide that they're unnecessary.
But no matter which planning level you choose, all of our plans are designed to provide true security in the event that something were to happen to you -- and not the false sense of security that, unfortunately, often comes with an inexpensive set of template estate planning documents that you can find online.
Typically, we take 50% of payment at the design session and the remaining 50% at signing – but we're also more than happy to figure out creative payment options. The goal is to make sure that you have a great plan in place, and we'll do whatever we can to help make it affordable.