Estate Planning Most people have heard of wills. Some have even taken the step of drafting a will, and hopefully, properly executing one in a way that is effective under Califonia law. However, we’ve found that many people fundamentally misunderstand what a will is and what it can do, even experienced lawyers. And even more importantly, many misunderstand what a will can’t accomplish. Knowing the difference can be vital to protecting your family, and is where a California Estate Planning lawyer can really help guide you depending on your wishes.
What a Will Can and Can’t-Do
What a Will Can Do
Everyone knows something about wills – Wills explain what you want to happen once you pass away. That means it’s important not only that a will be written in a way that makes those wishes clear, but also that contingencies are in place to deal with any difficulties in actually achieving those results. It’s also important to remember that a will is just a snapshot in time – they reflect your wishes when drafted and properly executed. They need to be updated and reviewed as time goes on.
What a Will Can’t-Do
What a will cannot do is just as important as what a will can do. There are several limitations of a will, but the most significant is that a will, by itself, does not avoid probate in California, and it offers extremely limited protection for your family from creditors or the government. A will also does little to protect the privacy of your estate.
Estate Planning Lawyer
Mr. Cosio offers a thorough consultation discussing all alternatives involved in estate planning. Will drafting is a common occurrence in his probate practice. Living trusts are also commonplace as an estate planning alternative. As an added benefit, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care are included with all estate plans. General Power of Attorney documents is also available.
Probate, Wills & Trusts
The Law Offices of R. M. Anthony Cosio handles all probate matters ranging from estate planning to the probate of complex wills. The following services are discussed in detail.
Mr. Cosio can counsel the family or friends of the deceased with what immediate actions need to take place from the date of death. If legal work is necessary, Mr. Cosio can commence any action which is required under the California Probate Code, no matter how large or how small the probate assets entail. Probate matters must be handled with delicacy and expediency, two attributes Mr. Cosio has been known to possess when handling probate concerns.
Estate planning takes into consideration the only two unavoidable events in life – death and taxes. Establishing a vehicle now to transfer your estate will help to ensure that more of your estate is transferred to your family and other intended “beneficiaries,” instead of the United States government through taxes. Without any estate plan, on a one million dollar estate, the estate tax to be paid to the government is over $140,000. The estate and gift tax rate is over 50% on an estate with a value of $2,500,000.
Decrease Estate Taxes
There are numerous options available, depending on your circumstances, to effectively decrease your estate taxes and transfer your wealth as you choose. Some of the options are as follows:
1. Revocable Living Trust
The Revocable Living Trust avoids probate, keeps your estate plan private, and allows you to monitor your estate plan while you are alive. A rather simple marital trust allows a married couple to bypass and avoid $211,300 in estate taxes by taking advantage of the marital deduction and the unified credit of $650,000 (the unified credit increases every year up to the year 2006). Also, the use of a trust is preferred when the beneficiary is suffering from a legal disability.
2. Family Limited Partnership
The Family Limited Partnership is becoming more popular as the premier vehicle for the estate plan. It allows you to maintain control of your assets while transferring partnership interests to family members. It can be funded through gifts using your $10,000 annual exclusions, indexed for inflation ($20,000 if you are married). Finally, it takes advantage of valuation and minority control discounts. It is an excellent choice for transferring interests in income properties.
3. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust instantly creates, or increases, the amount of wealth transferred to your loved one on your death, because buying insurance in effect creates an estate. A $1,000,000 life insurance policy increases your estate at your death by $1,000,000. Established properly, the life insurance trust will not be considered in the insured’s estate because the insured does not own the policy, and therefore no “incidents of ownership”. The life insurance policy can be funded through the use of your $10,000 annual exclusions and the use of what are called Crummey powers.
4. Qualified Personal Residence Trust
The Qualified Personal Residence Trust allows you to live in a personal residence for a defined number of years, whereafter the residence is distributed to your beneficiaries. The grantor of the trust chooses the length of the trust and must outlive the number of years established for the trust. The trust is based on making a present transfer of a remainder interest in the residence. The present value of the residence is used in the trust. In addition, in effect, a valuation discount is applied to account for the number of years you will live in the residence. The longer the trust, the greater the valuation discount.
5. Grantor Retained Annuity Trust
The Grantor Retained Annuity Trust allows the owner to create an annuity stream for a defined number of years, after which the principal goes to the designated beneficiaries. The income stream is given a value and subtracted from the value of the property.
6. Charitable Trusts – Income(Lead) Trusts and Remainder Trusts
The charitable income trust, or charitable lead trust, allows the owner to make a charitable contribution of the current income of a trust and obtain a current income tax deduction while having the trust revert to the owner or family after a term of years.
The charitable remainder trust is accomplished by transferring assets to a listed charitable organization whereby the transferor retains the income for a certain term of years, after which the principal assets (remainder interest) goes to the charity. Further, the transferor is allowed a present charitable income tax deduction.
Charitable Private and Community Foundations:
Create your own private foundation for charitable donations. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis created a charitable lead foundation (C&J Foundation), which pays an annuity calculated on an estimated $100 million dollars of principal to charities. When the term of the trust expires, the assets of the trust are distributed to the grandchildren of Mrs. Onassis.