Jonas M. Grant is a Los Angeles County wills, trusts, and estate planning attorney and member of WealthCounsel, the nation's premiere collaborative organization for estate planning attorneys.
Avoid or minimize court-supervised probate proceedings, save on estate taxes, define and preserve your legacy and values, determine your health care wishes, protect your assets from predators, and take end-of-life burdens and decisions off the shoulders of loved ones. While a will and a revocable living trust are the building blocks of most estate plans, one or both of these does not comprise a complete estate plan. And each of these documents can and should be tailored to your specific needs and wishes.
"Failing to plan is planning to fail." - Alan Lakein
Contrary to what you might have heard, there is no one will, trust, or other estate planning document that is the one solution for everyone. Most complete estate plans include a pour-over will, one or more living or irrevocable trusts, advance health care directives, and a durable powers of attorney. Thus, it is difficult to quote fees in advance (and it is difficult for you to compare fees from firm to firm, without knowing the full scope of what you need, and what each firm will offer you). Fees range from a low of $750 for a single person and $1,000 for married couples for a standalone will, and $2,500 and up for a complete "middle class" trust-based estate plan (add $500+ for couples), to mid-four figures or more for a more complex estate plan where estate tax, business transfer, special needs, substantial charitable gifts, second marriage with children of a previous marriage, or other issues come into play. We urge you to compare value rather than fees and realize that "a will" or "a trust" is properly only one part of an overall estate plan; it's not a form that is just printed off a computer, the same for everyone. For potential estate planning clients, we also offer a one-hour, no-obligation in-office or telephone free consultation.
"You and your spouse have an estate plan whether you think you do or not. If you haven't put something in place yourself, then the California legislature has already chosen a one-size-fits-all plan for you, and most likely, this isn't the plan you would have selected for you and your family." - Estate planning attorney Jonas M. Grant
Another common misconception is that estate planning is a one-off transaction; in fact, it should be an ongoing process, with your estate plan changes as you, your loved ones, and assets change throughout your life. If it's been years since you've reviewed your estate plan, it may be out of date, due to changes in the law or in your assets and family. Among the triggers that should cause you to have your estate plan reviewed and updated are marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, gradual or sudden changes in the value of assets, and changes in family relationship or in the physical and mental well-being of family members.
With the recent tax law changes providing a greater exemption from the estate tax (A/K/A death tax), such that the estate tax will impact fewer estates, many clients are wondering if there is any need for estate planning at all. The short answer is yes, there are still many reasons to engage in estate planning, including management of assets during period of incapacity (wills only "speak" upon death and do nothing during periods of mental or physical incapacity, which are statistically much more likely than passing in any given year), planning for the likely eventual expiration of the increased estate tax exemption amounts, and avoiding California's slow and expensive probate system, to which the federal law changes have no impact. Those will older trusts should also consider having them updated or replaced.
For more information on California estate planning, wills, living trusts, advance health care directives (living wills), and powers of attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us.