Funding A Trust

January 26th, 2015

                                                                                                           FUNDING A TRUST


Funding A Trust

I like to establish a three phase process with my estate planning clients. The first phase is the gathering and drafting phase. This phase includes meeting with my clients to discuss their needs. I then draft the estate planning documents. Phase two is the execution phase. This is where my clients meet with me to learn about their documents and execute their documents. The final phase is phase three this is the funding phase. This phase typically takes the longest to complete, but is essential.

Let’s imagine it is in the middle of fire season. Your community has been hit by fires before, and you have a funny feeling that this may be the year your community is hit again. So, you decide to purchase the best fire proof safe. This puppy can withstand the hottest fire ever. You made sure it was large enough to fit all your photos, jewelry, artwork, important papers and mementos. The big day arrives and your safe is delivered. The company shows you how to use your safe and walks you through the mechanics of the lock. Handing over a pretty hefty check you bid farewell to the delivery team and head to the garage to admire your new safe. The garage seemed to be the best spot to put your safe. It was more protected as well as hidden, the perfect spot. Days go by and then weeks. You forget you have a safe, since it isn’t very visible. Also, you still have not put any of the things you wanted to protect in your safe. One day a big fire hits your community and wipes out many homes including yours. As you sift through the rubble you see the safe. It is a little dusty, but in good shape. You open the safe and the inside looks brand new, but it is empty. You forgot to put any of your things into the safe so they burned in the fire.

A trust functions the same way. A trust is a great way to avoid a probate, but it only works if you fund your assets into the trust. You need to make sure your bank accounts are retitled in your name as trustee; your deed is retitled to reflect you own the property as trustees, beneficiary designation forms need to be updated. Once you create a trust you need to take the final step of funding the trust, by transferring titled into your name as trustee. If you miss that step your trust is simply very expensive paper.

Review & Reinvest

January 12th, 2015


Review & Reinvest


When was the last time you pulled out your estate planning documents to review them, or update them? Most people visit their CPA or Financial planner annually, if not more often. However, people often have a “set it and forget it” mentality regarding estate planning. Below I have listed a few reasons to review and update your estate plan that you may have never considered.

IT HAS BEEN 3 – 5 YEARS: If you have not looked at your plan in years, then pull it out for a review. It is always a good idea to peek at your documents, just to remind yourself whom you chose to be your agent, trustee and executor. I can barely remember what I did yesterday let alone recall whom I chose to make financial decisions for me. Reviewing your documents with your attorney will help to solidify the choices you made and the role each person will play in your estate plan. In addition, divorce, law change, financial and life circumstances change…if you never update your plan or review it then you may have a plan that does not function.

YOU ARE HAVING HEALTH ISSUES: If you expect to have significant medical issues, it will be important to insert special provisions into your trust, such as special care requirements or a desire to remain in your home. If capacity will become an issue, any changes to your trust must be done prior to incapacity to be effective.

YOU OR YOUR SPOUSE STARTED A BUSINESS: if you started a business depending on the type of business, you will need special provisions in your trust regarding how the business is run and distributed. Ownership interest may need to be funded to your trust. Anytime you start a business or convert the form of your business you will need to likely update your trust, and at the very least review your estate planning documents.

Reviewing and updating your estate plan will send you back to your attorney, which will cost a fee; however, the expense of investing in your estate plan is far lower than an out of date or dysfunctional plan. So take the time to review and update your estate planning documents.


January 1st, 2015


New Year New House


Happy New Year! It is the beginning of 2015 and many people will be making the transition into retirement this year. Gearing up for retirement can often mean downsizing to a smaller home. If that is on your list for 2015, then read on for a few things to consider as you transition to a smaller home.

Cost Benefit: Speak with your financial planner (FP) and certified public accountant (CPA). Getting these meetings on the calendar before a final decision is made should be a top priority. Your FP will assist you in revising your retirement plan accordingly. Maybe you will have a profit from the sale to allocate to a brokerage account. Your CPA will work with you to determine the tax implications of the sale or the impact the loss of a mortgage deduction will have.

Emotional Benefit: The benefits of downsizing will likely mean less clutter and lower expenses. However, do not underestimate the impact leaving a family home will have on you as well as other family members. Talking with your children and grandchildren can ease the transition period. Also, before having a tag sale or donating your personal property, consider transitioning those cherished items to family members. Not every family member will be on board with the move. However, you met with your FP and CPA and have the relevant information as to why downsizing makes financial sense.

Now that you have met with the right people, had the important discussions it is time to get moving and find the right new home in the right community to help you enjoy your retirement. A realtor can assist by providing you with insight into the right community that will be a perfect match for the next wonderful phase of your life!


March 7th, 2014

(How to find the right estate-planning attorney)



1. Do You Feel Comfortable With This Attorney?

This is a personal question to keep in mind, while looking for the perfect estate-planning attorney. The estate-planning attorney needs you to feel comfortable. So comfortable, that you readily share all the skeletons in your closet. If you cannot sit down and have a beer, wine, or macchiato with this person, then look for a different attorney.

2. Is The Attorney A Certified Specialist In Estate Planning, Probate And Trust Law By The California State Bar Board Of Legal Specialization?

There are many good attorneys that do not carry this designation. However, knowing that your attorney has the specialized expertise, and that they jumped through all the hoops to obtain this designation typically indicates, “They know their stuff.” When I am looking for a doctor, I cannot wade through all the nuances of what makes a good doctor. I do not have a pulse on the internal opinions of what certain doctors really think of their colleagues’ abilities. Therefore, I rely on designations and credentials, it provides at a minimum a recognized level of competence. The same is true in for attorneys.

3. What Percent Of Estate Planning Comprises The Attorney’s Practice?

I like to see 50% – 75%. Generally, you want an attorney that practices solely in this area of law. Not an attorney that does a little criminal law, a little family law, a little bankruptcy…you get my point. However, I believe you are a much better estate planner if your practice does not stick to 100% estate planning. An attorney that has probate experience, trust administration experience and trust or probate litigation has a very different perspective. They see the back-end of the planning world and the pitfalls. I believe these attorneys provide a fuller perspective. Without this experience, estate planners are often unable to articulate the nuts and bolts of how the trust will work.

I had originally created a top ten list, and while there are many questions to ask before settling on an estate-planning attorney, I really felt that there was no need to ask any further questions if the answers to the above top three were not Yes.


February 21st, 2014


…then you likely have a plan to transfer your digital assets. Right? McAfee provided a perceived value of digital assets for a person living in the United States of about $54,722.00.1 Not too shabby.

What about the Gamer? I am not a Gamer, unless you count assisting my six year old with her Brave Temple Run game;2 however, a planet for the Entropia Universe sold for $6 Million in 2001.3 That’s right, a virtual planet equals $6 million in the bank! That planet was part of someone’s digital estate. If no one knows you have a digital asset(s) no one can transfer, sell or distribute the digital asset at your death. What about your story, the bits and pieces you leave behind for loved ones. Diaries and photos left on computers are often lost. Families often deem decedent’s computer as outdated or obsolete, forgetting the treasure trove of information stored on the hard drive.

I think it is easier to use real life examples of digital assets, rather than getting bogged down in a technical term that continues to morph. Consider the following examples as you think about your digital assets.

* Social Media Outlets – Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter
* Financial Accounts – Amazon, PayPal, and eBay
* Domain Names, Emails and Blogs
* Loyalty Program Benefits
* Passwords and Logins
* Photos and Digital Files Stored On Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly
* Pinterest and Instagram
* Virtual Worlds – World of Warcraft and Second Life
* Professional Data Backups

My dear Mavericks and Mavens, add protecting and planning for your digital afterlife as a to-do item: upgrade system, read book on SEO, get materials for blog post craft and contact my estate-planning attorney to incorporate my digital estate.

There are companies that can maintain and store your information. Working with your estate-planning attorney is another great option. Every state has different laws on how to handle accessing digital assets. As do the various companies…remember those click wrap agreements you didn’t bother to read. Even the Federal Government has gotten in on the act.4 Listing specific powers in your will concerning your digital assets might be the solution, or maybe creating a trust is the best option for you. You won’t know what the best option is if you don’t start looking into Digital Assets and the After Life.

3 Naveen Kumar, Most Expensive Virtual Real Estate Sales, (Apr.23, 2011)
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January 13th, 2014


Top 10


1. Believing a will needs to be notarized.

In California, the will needs to be witnessed by two (2) disinterested witness.

2. Believing a will avoids a probate.

3. Naming only one executor.

4. Failing to distribute the residue.

Many times people say things like my bank accounts equally to my children. However, your estate may consist of more than just your bank accounts. If you do not designate who should receive the remainder of your estate or anything not mentioned specifically i.e. the residue then this piece will be distributed under the laws of intestacy and not in accordance with your will.

5. Naming a specific account that does not exist at your death.

Mom leaves one account (A,B,C) to each of her three children. Years later she closes account A, and uses account B to pay for medical bills. Only account C remains at mom’s death. Account C transfers to the child listed in the will. Two children would take nothing because his or her account did not exist at death.

6. Not creating a new will after you are divorced.

7. Not preparing a codicil to your will or a new will upon marriage.

8. Not keeping the will in a safe spot that can be located upon your death.

Estates are probated as intestate (i.e. without a will) because the relatives could not locate the original will.

9. Trying to be fair.

It is never a good idea to name someone to act as your executor simply so they won’t feel bad. Naming the right person is the best way to ensure a smooth administration for your beneficiaries.

10. Using a blanket “No Contest Clause”


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Estate Planning 101

November 19th, 2013

Welcome to my estate planning blog. This blog will provide you with valuable information on estate planning, probate and trust administration. I will provide helpful information and tips to assist you in making informed decisions. However, I am not providing specific legal advice, and you should always consult with your attorney regarding the specifics of your matter. This blog will discuss the straightforward nuts-and-bolts of estate planning, but also the humorous side of estate planning. Yes, often when I am discussing the most serious topics humor creeps into the discussion.

Through my estate planning practice I have created an environment where I can spend quality time with a client on a particular issue, and make determinations related to that case without “the billable hour” hanging over my head! As a result, not only do I enjoy work life, but my employees also enjoy working at my firm. Read the rest of this entry »


March 6th, 2013


By Mauriah Conway-Spatola on March 6, 2013


I love movies.  True stories, comedies, romance, drama, action you name it, and I love it. I am looking forward to seeing the movie Quartet.  I typically wait until a movie comes out on dvd…having young children makes movie going difficult!  What I am looking forward to with Quartet, and hope to find, is a real movie with real issues that face people as they age.

Movies like Hanging Up, In Her Shoes, The Savages, and Cocoon discuss and show the issues families come to grips with when taking care of a parent or grandparent.  Some of these films are irreverent or impractical, but they all contain nuggets of truth.  Movies provide real depictions of human emotion and the struggles that come with life.  As the baby boomer population ages, they are demanding relevant entertainment.  Movies that deal with the lighter side of aging and the real issues of aging are becoming more mainstream, and it is about time.

As we see real life reflected on the big screen the issues and struggles with aging, dementia and caring for a parent or grandparent becomes easier to talk about and discuss.  When families can talk about these issues and deal with the inevitable then planning becomes a little bit easier.   With a plan in place the struggles and the emotions become manageable.  I am convinced it will allow you to see the lighter side more days than not!


Photocredit: <a href=””>ginnerobot</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

There Is No Magical Formula In Estate Planning

February 2nd, 2013

    Estate planning is not a one size fits all piece of clothing. It is not a magical hat you can pull out an estate plan from. Every person is unique and has different goals and circumstances. A complete estate plan uses a combination of documents to deal with death and incapacity. Will, Trusts, Powers of Attorney for Finance, and Advance Health Care Directives are just a few of the documents used. Once you have an estate plan, life changes and therefore you need to make changes to your plan. Beneficiary Designations need to be updated. Guardians need to be added or removed.

    I have seen too many plans that are “kitchen sink” type plans. They include every type of trust and possible outcome. I have also seen estate plans that were created thirty years before the person died and never looked at again. Families evolve, life changes and things happen. The only magic formula is to choose the plan that meets your needs and review that plan to ensure that it continues to reflect your goals. Planning for the next five years is a good rule of thumb. Provided nothing major has happen or changed it may still make sense, but if it doesn’t then you can make changes.

    As we move toward the end of the year, it is the perfect time to reflect on what changes occurred during the previous year, and what new things are ahead. Add review your estate plan to your list of resolutions and be sure to update your documents if there were any changes in the past year.
Chemistry Set

Forever Student

August 13th, 2012

I am one of those people that could go to school forever!  However, for me that is not a practical reality.  Luckily my profession requires that I meet continuing education requirements.  You will never hear me complain about having to attend a class to learn the latest and greatest tips and techniques used in my field.  I take classes outside of my profession as well (pottery, ballet, spin, yoga, knitting and many more)  I look to my local community event calendar/programs to find new and interesting classes.   In fact, I liked signing up for classes so much I decided to teach one as well.  If you ever want to learn the basics of estate planning come check out my class in the Cosumnes Activity Guide.