What is Estate Planning and Why Do I Need It?

An estate planning lawyer is an attorney who is experienced in advising clients on how to handle their assets and property once a person has died. Estate planning lawyers are able to produce and file the necessary documents to allocate your assets properly. Examples of estate planning include not allowing funds to go to your children’s accounts until they reach a certain age, or having designated individuals or trusts inherit your assets.

What is Probate?

Probate takes place in court after a person’s death and usually begins by reading the deceased’s will. The person responsible for the deceased’s assets (usually called the executor) will go to court and file all the paperwork. The executor must prove the validity of the will and must present the court with a list of the properties, debts, and who is to inherit what the deceased has left. Once this process is complete, the deceased’s relatives are notified, and the rest of the legal procedure may continue. The executor must then find, secure, and manage any assets until the probate has completed. Depending on the circumstances, this step may take longer than you think. The court will review all of your accounts, assets, businesses, and debts to decide if the will is valid and may be completed. An executor may have to sell real estate or valuable items to pay off debts. The court will have all of your assets appraised (if already not done so), which can include works of art, collectible items, and other retainments of monetary value.

However, not everyone must go through probate. In California, individuals are allowed up to designate $100,000 of property in their will without needing probate. In addition to this, properties passed outside of your will (like a living trust) is not subjected to probate. California probate law differs based on the number of assets going through probate. It is a standard procedure that lawyers would receive a certain percentage based on the amount that goes through probate.

  • 4% of the first $100,000 that goes through probate
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000
  • .5% of the next $15,000,000

Many lawyers work off a percentage basis. In simpler terms, the attorney(s) would take a percentage of the compensation gained. This is a standard procedure for most lawyers, but some attorneys choose to work for a set amount. California law does not protect these attorneys from attaining their probate fees, as the law states that all attorneys would earn a percentage based on the amounts stated above.

What Can an Estate Lawyer Do For Me?

Estate lawyers won’t just help you with your will and testament; they are able to set up living trusts. Your lawyer will help create a path to minimize estate taxes to ensure that your assets will not be heavily taxed once you have passed. Estate lawyers may also prepare and choose healthcare directives for someone to take care of you or your affairs in the event that you become disabled. This is essential in order to avoid guardian or conservatorship issues in the case you become mentally incapacitated and require someone to take care of your affairs.

You may set up healthcare plans with your lawyer if you become in a state where you cannot answer for yourself. This is called “End of Life Care Planning.” For example, if a person is in a coma for a prolonged period of time with no sign of waking, they may state in their will that they do not want treatment anymore, or that they do want treatment. In other cases, specific individuals or parties may have the designated decision of pulling the plug or not.

Can my estate planning attorney help me avoid inheritance tax?

Estate lawyers are versed in avoiding inheritance tax issues. Pride Legal’s network of estate planning lawyers can help you to avoid any issues you may have. The federal estate tax has now been raised to estates appraised over $11.56 million. California does not include its own inheritance tax as some other states do. Your estate lawyer will try to ensure that your properties will not be taxed. Living trusts are set up in order to legally diverge any taxes that would otherwise be taxed if included in the will. Your lawyer will handle everything once you have passed; they will become your executor. They will ensure that your property and assets have been properly taken care of, as well as ensure that your health was properly taken care of.

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Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is seeking to plan their estate, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.