Estate Planning & Wealth Management

"You've earned it, We can help you protect it."

Having a family carries with it a great number of responsibilities. This not only includes taking care of your family while you are here, but it also entails providing for them when you are gone.

Estate planning is never an easy task, but it is often necessary to ensure that your spouse, children or other family members do not have to suffer any more than they have to in your absence. Without proper estate planning, you leave important decisions in the hands of the government in the event of your death, which may not align with what you would have wished for. The government will be able to determine things such aswho will care foryour minor children and how your propertyis to be distributed. Because you or a designated family member is likely in the best place to make those types of decisions, you should never leave them in the hands of the government.

At Panah Law Firm we are here to assist single or married individuals, business partners, life partners or small families in navigating the estate planning process. We can guide you on how to best plan your estate, to assure that yourwishes and plans are properly implemented and that your family is properly cared for.

The majority of people will choose a ‘Last Will and Testament’ (“Will”) as their primary estate planning document. A Person who dies with a valid Will is considered to have died “testate”, whereas a person who dies without a valid Willis said to have died “intestate”. A person who dies testate (with a Will) has the opportunity to express whom, how much and how their beneficiary should receive their portion of the estate after they pass. Those who fail to plan ahead and die intestate (without a ‘Will’) leave all of their decisions in the hands of the state probate court.

While a Willis a very necessary part of your wealth management strategy, it is by no means the only option available. In fact, in some situations it may not always be the best option to protect certain assets or to ensure that your wishes are followed in certain situations.

Other available tools include:

  • Family Limited Partnerships
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Totten Trusts
  • Revocable or Irrevocable Trusts
  • Living Wills
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Advance Health Care Directives

To receive a free evaluation so that you may determine the best estate planning tools for you and your family, contact the Panah Law Firmestate planning attorneys at (866) 290-2028. We will be happy to schedule a time for your free and confidential consultation.

Wills

A Will is one of the first documents that is considered as part of the estate planning process. A Will is a document that comes into effect after a testator(deceased person with a Will) passes away.

In California, if a person dies with a valid Will, the process of probating or distributing the deceased’s estate is rather straightforward. However, creating a Willthat will allow for the proper administration and the proper disposition of your assets is not as simple as it may seem. To have a valid Willin place, it is very important to make sure the document complies with allof the legal requirements and inheritance laws. Otherwise, the Will could be declared invalid and the estate may be held up in probate, almost indefinitely.

Trusts

Sometimes having a will may not offer all of the security and assurances that you need. Instead, you may be better served by establishing a trust. With a trust, you are able to better control your assets both during your lifetime and after death, through the use of a trustee (a person or company designated to manage your trust). You can also specify when and how your assets are to be distributed to your beneficiaries, who may not be old enough or responsible enough to manage the assets on their own.

Besides allowing for better control over your assets, a proper trust may also have other benefits, such as allowing your family to save time and money by completely avoiding the probate process. Unlike wills and other estate planning tools, where your beneficiaries are required to go through a public court proceeding before assets are distributed (probate), trusts may be used to forego the probate process. By doing so, your family is able to gain access to your assets a lot quicker during their time of need, saving them valuable time and unnecessary court costs and probate fees.

In addition to allowing your family to more quickly receive assets, trusts may also help them to minimize or completely avoid expensive estate taxes. This is because certain trusts, such as irrevocable trusts, are usually not factored into your taxable estate.

There are many other benefits to establishing a trust. You can read more about trusts below and contact our experienced trust attorneys to help you to decide if this may be a good option for you.

What is a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning or legal document that allows you and your designated trustee to transfer your property (your assets) prior to and after your death. A trust document normally contains four main elements:

  1. Grantor/Settlor: this is the person who establishes the trust
  2. Trustee/Successor Trustee: this is the person or entity who administers the trust per trust document or manages the trust from the time of your death
  3. Property: these are primarily items grantor/settlor owns, such as real estate, bank accounts, cars or stocks and more
  4. Beneficiaries: these are the persons, charities or entities that will benefit from your trust’s assets.

Your trust will provide directions and restrictions on the distribution of your property to the named beneficiaries. There are different types of trusts that we can help you understand, including the following:

  • Living Trusts
  • Asset Protection Trusts
  • Family Limited Partnerships
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Totten Trusts
  • Revocable or Irrevocable Trusts

Current federal law allows an individual to shelter up to $5.34 million dollars before triggering any estate tax (with rates of up to 40%). However, an individual can leave an unlimited amount to his or her surviving spouse (including a same-sex spouse) without paying any estate taxes. By doing so, the estate tax is deferred until the death of the surviving spouse.

Advantages of effective Estate Planning:

Death is a fact of life and more than ever legal conflicts over Wills and Trustsare ending up in probate court. The most effective way to bypass the probate process is to have a well-drafted Will or, even better, to establish a Trust and communicate your plans and intentions before your death.

Probate is a court-driven process where the probate court takes jurisdiction and control over the assets of a person who has died. The court will supervise the distribution of assets, debts, taxes and probate fees, then distributewhatever is left to the persons identified in a Will or to the legal heirs, if there is no Will. The probate is an open public process that exposes private family matters. If you want to keep private matters private, it is best to avoid your estate entering probate court by being well prepared ahead of time. A well drafted trust instrument will help you to accomplish that.

To receive an evaluation on how toproperly plan your estate, contact Panah Law Firm Estate Planning attorney at (415) 326-4807. We will be happy to schedule a time for your free and confidential consultation.

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