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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Five Sacramento Estate Planning Questions and Their Answers

October 31, 2012

Estate planning, with or without a lawyer, can be a little overwhelming. For an estate planning attorney in Sacramento, there are plenty of questions that come up again and again. Take a look at the list below, and maybe you’ll get some of yours answered:

Do I really need an estate plan if I don’t own much? The answer to this is: ABSOLUTELY. An estate plan isn’t just about setting up trust funds. There are very important documents that everyone should have, regardless of their income level or assets.

What is the most important document I should have my estate planning lawyer draft?There are several that are important, but to get started, you will likely need a medical directive that explains what your wishes are in a variety of medical situations when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. If you’re married, you spouse will likely become the default decision-maker, which works well until other family members interfere or disagree. By having your wishes outlined, it makes things much clearer and takes some of the burden off your loved ones.

Any others I really need? If you’re not married, you should really create durable powers of attorney for your medical decisions and your financial obligations. Parents should absolutely name legal guardians for their minor children. And just about everyone can benefit from creating a will.

Aren’t “trust funds” just for the ultra-rich? Actually, they’re not. While we may be conditioned to think of trusts as some sort of savings account that doles out money to the next generation, they are actually so much more. Putting your assets into a trust allows you to put specific restrictions and conditions on how the money is used, can protect a piece of property, and can significantly lessen the amount of taxes owed by your estate and its heirs.  A trust can also streamline the transfer process and avoid the court’s time-consuming and costly probate process. The cost of setting up a trust will save you its value many times over.

Will I have to pay a “death tax?” Maybe. For 2012, the federal estate tax only applies to those worth more than $5 million. In 2013, that amount is expected to drop to $1 million. The 2012 tax rate for those with estates worth more than the $5 million is capped at 35%, while the projected 2013 tax rate for estates worth more than $1 million can reach as high as 55%. Even if your estate doesn’t pay federal estate tax, your state may have a state estate tax.

Of course, there are many other questions that a Sacramento estate planning lawyer is used to answering on a regular basis. These five, however, are commonly asked and may have been on your mind. Armed with this information, you may have realized that now truly is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get the ball rolling for your future plans.

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Heather was wonderful. She explained, in understandable terms, why it is important to establish an estate plan. I never realized what would happen, without a plan in place, and we could not bear the thought of our child in arms of absolute strangers while the court system sorted out his future.

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