Trusts & Estates
Many people believe that estate planning is only for people who are particularly wealthy, have elaborate plans in mind for passing their money to their heirs, or for people who are acutely ill and contemplating their death. This could not be farther from the truth!
Estate planning is for every husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, business owner, professional, or anyone else who has someone they care about, are concerned about providing responsibly for their own well being and for the well being of those they love, and for anyone who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others after they’re gone. Estate planning is not ‘death planning’; it’s ‘life planning’, and an essential and rewarding process for individuals and families who engage in it.
When done properly, estate planning requires that a highly trained individual lead you through one or more in-depth meetings to uncover your hopes, fears, and expectations for yourself and for those who are most important to you. This process almost always requires the preparation of several sophisticated legal documents, but those documents themselves are not ‘estate planning.’ Planning is a process, represented by a complete strategy that is properly documented and maintained by a professional who has taken the time to get to know you, and who is committed to continuing to serve you.
Probate & Trust Administration
Probate is a court-supervised process for distributing the individually owned assets of a deceased person. Assets are distributed to beneficiaries in accordance to the instructions written in the person’s will. If estate planning is the process of designing a playbook, probate administration occurs when the playbook is put into action. The process begins with an event that triggers a provision in your estate plan, such as incapacity or death. The plan becomes ‘executory’, meaning that the individuals you designated in your plan documents must step into action and execute according to your instructions.
Probate administration can be complex and the people you have designated must have competent and experienced counsel to guide them through the process. They must make important decisions – sometimes quickly – and they need help to make them wisely. They may need to prepare inventories of your property, prepare tax returns, or sign other important documents on your behalf. Ultimately they must divide and distribute your property to those individuals or charities you identified in your will or trust agreement.
The probate administration process carries a lot of responsibilities. We can help guide your loved ones through the process as sensitively and completely as possible, and will try to make it as straightforward and efficient as possible.
A living trust is a legal document that, just like a will, contains your instructions for what you want to happen to your assets when you die. But, unlike a will, a living trust can avoid probate at death, control all of your assets and prevent the court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated.
Upon the death of a trust maker our law firm offers legal services to your successor trustee. The trustee is responsible for seeing that the assets of the trust are distributed properly and in a timely manner. An overview of the valuable guidance we provide includes:
Review of the trust document
Gathering of all trust assets
Explanation of trustee responsibilities
Estate Tax Analysis
Collection of death benefits
Creation of sub-trusts
Dissolution of trust
Have you been looking forward to the day you can retire, perhaps turn your business over to a son or daughter, or sell it? Even if you are not planning to stop working, you need to plan for the day you cannot run your business due to unforeseen illness or death. Most business owners do not take the time to plan for how they will leave their business. They are busy running the company, or they don’t know where to start. But if you continue to own a business until you die, it will be included in your estate and could be subject to substantial estate taxes. Your family could be forced to sell the business or its assets at ‘fire sale’ prices. Then you will have worked hard all these years so that the vultures and Uncle Sam, not your family, will reap the benefits.
Planning for how you will exit from your business should be an integral part of your estate and retirement planning. Proper planning now can provide you with retirement income, reduced income and estate taxes, and even let you benefit a charity if you so choose, regardless of whether you transfer your business to family members at discounted values, to employees, or to an outside buyer. In today’s market, the economy and trends are affecting the timing and value of business transfers.
Planning now to exit your company will result in you and your family receiving the best possible results, both now and after your retirement, disability or death. You can receive retirement income; you can transfer your business to your family, your employees or an outside buyer; you can make a difference for a charity or your community; and you can do all of this with reduced income, gift and estate taxes.
Family Law & Divorce
We offer family law services as they relate to Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements; Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage Issues and Litigation; Spousal and Child Support Issues and Litigation; and Child Custody Issues and Litigation.
Real Estate Law & Property Tax Appeals
We offer services related to Real Estate Transactions and Litigation; and Property Tax Appeals for Real and Personal Property Assessments by the County.
We offer litigation services related to all matters mentioned above.