Since our planning services (Modern Estate planning, Special Needs planning, Long-Term Care/ Medi-Cal / VA planning, and planning updates) are personalized for each client, it’s only after we have a feel for your needs that we can determine what level of planning, and therefore fee level, best fits you. But unlike traditional estate planning attorneys, who charge by the hour, we charge flat fees—that way there are never any surprise bills, even if you need extra time or attention. Our goal is not to charge clients for every minute we spend with them; our goals are to put a plan together that’s tailored for you and your family, and to walk you through an easy, smooth, comfortable process. And since your goal is to protect your whole family wealth, our services are truly an investment, not a cost.
Estate Administration services, which include Probate, Trust Administration and Small Estate Administration, are charged either hourly or on a flat fee depending on the service provided. But rest assured all fees will be disclosed up front and if hourly services are provided, we will do our best to provide an accurate estimate of the overall cost of the representation.
It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is ideal. The biggest reason is that way you can meet with them face to face. Creating an estate plan isn’t a one-time transaction. Because your plan needs on-going maintenance you should choose an attorney that you can establish a long-term relationship with. Someone you like, who will get to know you, and who will be a trusted advisor for you and your loved ones in times of need.
A trust is a very powerful estate planning tool that can help avoid the time and expense of a court supervised probate, provide estate tax planning, and in some circumstances protect assets from lawsuits and divorce. A trust is a legal arrangement memorialized by a legal document containing instructions and guidance on how it works. But since a trust is nothing more than a collection of words on paper it needs a person to actually carry out its instructions. This person is called the trustee and they are charged with managing the trust assets for the beneficiary and following the trust’s instructions for allowing the beneficiary access to the assets. The beneficiary is the person who is entitled to use or receive the trust assets.
Trusts come in two varieties – revocable and irrevocable. The revocable trust is the cornerstone of many Modern foundational estate plans, while the irrevocable trust is used for more advanced planning. A well-drafted revocable trust allows the trustmaker (also called the trustor, settler, or grantor) to hand-pick the trustee who will manage the trust assets for the trustmaker if the trustmaker becomes incapacitated.
A Power of Attorney is a legal device that is used to give someone (your Agent) the power to act on your (the Principal’s) behalf. If the power of attorney is “durable” the authorities granted to your Agent continue to be effective even if you are no longer able to make decisions.
On its face a Power of Attorney may seem like a simple document, but not all Powers of Attorney are created equal. Your Agent’s ability to handle things for you is always limited to the authorizations, or things you tell them they can do for you, in the document. In addition to the powers or authorizations you want to give your Agent, you will need to decide whether the Power of Attorney will become effective the moment you sign it, or only after you have been determined to be incapacitated. There are many choices to be made in creating a Power of Attorney and the right choices will mean the difference between having the flexibility to get things done or being stopped cold in your tracks. If the Power of Attorney is not robust enough it may still be necessary to establish a Conservatorship of the Estate.
Of equal and maybe greater importance, is choosing the right Agent. Most powers of attorney contain very broad authorizations and give your Agent the power to not only manage all your finances, but also change your beneficiaries and even modify your trust. Your Agent’s job is to work for you; but naming the wrong person, one who sees your money as their money, is a recipe for disaster.
Most Powers of Attorney terminate upon the principal’s death. This means that the person that you selected as your power of attorney will not be able to handle any financial matters on your behalf when you pass away. If you want to select the person that handles your affairs after you pass, you’ll need to name them the executor of your estate or trustee of your trust.
You can also cancel or revoke a POA at any time that you choose to. You can do so by destroying the original document and preparing a new one, or by preparing a revocation document that informs everyone involved that the POA is no longer valid.
Giving someone control over your financial matters should be well thought out. It’s best to speak to an experienced estate planning attorney who can fully explain your options and help you select the one that works best for you.
You would benefit from working with a lawyer if:
If you decide that you would benefit from working with a lawyer, your next decision is what kind of lawyer – a traditional estate planning lawyer or a Life Transitions Lawyer. Depending on what you decide, the experience will be very different.
A traditional experience often goes something like this: You meet with a lawyer who makes things seem complicated or confusing. The lawyer prepares your documents for you. You sign them and put the binder on a shelf at home. While the documents probably will help your estate avoid probate and estate taxes, it likely leaves assets unprotected and doesn’t adequately protect your kids or protect you from runaway long-term care costs. And if you need to ask questions or decide your plan needs changing it will be done at an hourly rate.
A Life Transitions Lawyer works more like this: You create a long-term relationship with your attorney, who provides a lifetime of guidance for you and your loved ones. Your attorney gets to know you, your needs, goals and values and creates a plan with you that is tailored just for you. The plan ensures your children will be taken care of in the best way possible, and that they’ll receive whole family wealth, including your financial, human, intellectual and spiritual assets. You can also be assured that as you age and your planning challenges shift from protecting your young children to protecting against long-term care costs, your plan will shift with you to ensure it works for all stages of your life. Your plan includes a review every 3 years to ensure that you’ll always be able to ask questions and make changes quickly and easily to your plan. And all our planning fees (initial creation and updating) are on a flat-fee basis, so there are never any surprises.