Wills, Trusts, Living Trusts and Estate Plans

Estate planning, along with real estate, business and tax law is a substantial part of our practice and has been for over 30 years. The planning of one’s estate actually involves all of these legal disciplines. A person’s estate and asset succession plans cannot actually be planned and documented without considering the various family needs and the impact of death on taxes and family transfers. The financial considerations are also paramount and since we do tax returns and planning we are uniquely suited to advise on estate matters.
PLEASE CALL and an attorney will speak with you about your situation.


  • We try to reduce or eliminate estate taxes (the government will heavily tax your money if you don’t have an estate plan).
  • Your estate documents will control your money and property and we prepare them so they will be enforceable in court and understood by your family, other lawyers, accountants and bankers.
  • An estate plan can avoid probate where mandatory attorneys fees apply-($9,000.00 fees on the first one million in gross assets plus 1% on the next 9 million)
  • Confidentiality.
  • Disputes need to be handled quickly and settled before they blow up into full fledged expensive litigation.
    A proper estate plan involves some or all of the following documents which we prepare and advise on:
    1. A will for each person
    2. An advance health care directive for each person
    3. A durable power of attorney
    4. A living (revocable) trust signed by both the husband and wife in the case of married couples or just signed by the person establishing it if he/she is single
    5. Certification of trust
    6. A community property agreement in the case of married persons
    7. Grant deeds and/or quitclaim deeds transferring real properties owned into the living trust
    8. An irrevocable (permanent) life insurance trust to own policies that will cover estate taxes and other needs upon death
    9. A special needs trust if there are dependents with disabilities or special needs
    10. Other types of trusts and specialized powers of attorney depending upon the situation
    11. A real property title search and in some cases title insurance when legal title ownership is in doubt.
    12. Family limited partnership and/or limited liability company documents where appropriate
    13. Asset protection techniques where appropriate

    We can send you data sheets to fill out to provide basic information to any attorney you retain to work on your estate planning

    Essential Tax Questions (taxes can be very very expensive!)

    These questions always needs to be asked and answered as part of any estate plan:

    1. What will the estate taxes be, if any, upon a death?
    2. What will the gift taxes be, if any, on transfers prior to death?
    3. Can the estate planning be done in such a way so as to minimize estate and gift taxes?
    4. What will the income tax implications be of pre-death and post-death transfers by wills or trusts?
    5. What are the property tax consequences of transfers on death and transfers prior to death and how can those be minimized?
    Detailed explanation of various estate planning topics

    Some important considerations of estate planning

    Our initial estate planning consultation with you will discuss all of these topics and many other important considerations.

    • Who will inherit and will there be an unequal division of the estate, such as when the person making the will wants to cut somebody out of the estate?
    • In a second marriage situation, whose kids get what on the deaths of the husband and wife?
    • In a situation involving children with disabilities and/or inability to handle money, what types of trusts should be used?
    • Who will be the executor and trustee of the living trust? Should an institution be used?
    • Does the first one to die want to give total discretion to the survivor over the estate? Put another way, what controls can be implemented to keep the surviving spouse from spending all the money and not leaving anything for the kids?
    • What controls can be built in to keep a surviving spouse from being taken advantage of by friends, relatives, and persons with questionable intentions?
    • If you outlive some of your children, who should get the deceased child’s share? Should it be the other siblings, the grandchildren, or the spouse of the deceased child?
    • Are there charities that you want to leave something to upon your demise?
    • Who should be the guardian of your children if you both pass away before they are 18?
    • Do you need a living trust, a permanent trust, or a life insurance trust?
    • What is the size of your estate and is a trust necessary to keep persons who are too young from being given too much too soon?
    • Do you want your children to become involved as trustees of your trust while you are still alive after they or you reach certain ages?
    • Is there any life insurance coverage and is it adequate to cover taxes, debts and other needs?
    • Is there any long term care insurance and if not should it be obtained?
    Probate, Trust litigation, and Conservatorships

    • Advice on how to avoid probate and when it should or should not be avoided
    • Probate administration when you are stuck with a probate
    • Trust litigation and probate litigation in the probate court system when people involved in trusts and probates are having disputes
    • Advice on setting up conservatorships when necessary and litigation involving conservatorship disputes
    The importance of legal title (determining who owns what)
    Unfortunately, people sometimes sign deeds to properties and make property transfers without being fully aware of the consequences. There are specific laws about the form of holding legal ownership to real estate, stocks, bank accounts and personal property. Part of the job of estate planning is to review all the real estate deeds and ownership documents to make sure the form of ownership is proper. In other words, the legal deeds and other documents must be exactly and precisely worded so that legal title ownership falls into the intended category. Also, consideration must be given in any type of real property transfer to obtaining title searches and title insurance. If the legal title is not properly set up, serious unintended consequences and expensive litigation can result. Different categories of ownership have different legal rules as to rights of the owners. Here is a basic overview of the legal categories of holding legal title ownership in California.

    • Sole ownership: Only one person or legal entity is on the deed and only that one person’s signature is needed to sell or to place liens against the property.
    • Tenancy in Common: 2 or more persons or entities can be owners and ownership can be equal (50/50) or unequal (such as 40/60). All owners have the right to possession. Each owner has the right on their own signature to sell or place liens against their portion without the consent of the other owners. A tenancy in common agreement is strongly recommended to avoid problems of possession, use, collection of rents, management, sales of partial shares and what to do on death or when somebody wants to get out or sell.
    • Joint Tenancy: 2 or more persons are equal owners and have equal rights to possession. Upon the death of one owner, the other owners automatically succeed to the deceased’s person’s share without any court proceeding. Also, a joint tenancy supersedes a will so the deceased person cannot give his or her share to someone else through his will. Each owner has the right on his own to sell, transfer, or place liens against his share. If a joint tenancy owners sells or transfers his portion, the joint tenancy is ended and the form of ownership reverts to tenancy in common.
    • Community Property: This form of ownership is available only to husbands and wives and domestic partners. Ownership, right to control and possession are equal. The signatures of both owners are needed to sell or place liens against the property. Either one, through one’s will, can transfer away his or her portion er death to anyone so the surviving spouse is not guaranteed to get it.
    • Community Property with Right of Survivorship: This form of ownership is the same as community property except that there is no right to transfer on death. In other words, the surviving spouse or partner automatically gets the entire ownership on the death of the first.
    • Trustee ownership: Trustees of trusts often hold title to real estate. This is prevalent where people have formed a living trust and transfer their property to that trust. In that instance, the trust documents control who gets the property when people pass away.
    • Corporate and/or LLC ownership: Businesses and investors often own property in the name of a corporation or a LLC (limited liability company). In those cases, the corporation or LLC documents control the operation of the property and what happens to it on the demise of company owners.