Debunking the Will Myth

July 17th, 2012

I hear these two phrases all the time: 1. I have a will so I won’t need a probate.  2. My will is valid because it was notarized.   Both are short of accurate.   In California, currently the only way to avoid a probate is having an estate below $150,000.00 when you pass away or using a trust.   A valid will is established under California Probate Code section 6110.  c(2) the will shall be witnessed by being signed, during the testator’s lifetime, by at least two persons.  There are other pieces and parts that need to be complied with as well, and I am excluding Holographic wills, but the gist of it is that a will should be witnessed by two people not notarized. Once you have a will keeping it in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box will ensure that it is not accidentally destroyed or lost.

Four New Tires…

July 3rd, 2012

I always take my children’s birthday off. It is a tradition started nearly five years ago. However, back in April, while inside artBEAST Studios, busily working on crafts with the birthday girl, my tire was slowly deflating. Actually, it probably wasn’t slowly, but a rather rapid departing of the air. The special day turned into an unexpected day at the auto shop. Eventually, with my spare tire on, I made my way to the “shop” The technician explained all the options in detail. Who knew so many options existed! I am embarrassed to say…but only slightly embarrassed…my mind wandered. When he was finished, I asked the question that all my client’s ask, what would you do if this were you? The answer: “I would get four new tires, and these are the two types of tires I would put on.” I felt confidant I wasn’t being up-sold or getting take advantage of, and that feels pretty good. I love working in that type of context, what would you do if this was your family, parent, child, or situation. To me it is important to work with people that consider my life and circumstances in the context of their life and circumstances. Whenever I hire someone to work for me or with me I like to know that they would give themselves the same advice. When hiring an attorney one of the things you may want to consider is whether they are able to put themselves in your shoes.


June 19th, 2012

It is true, I too sometimes procrastinate!   I get it.  I understand, it happens to all of us for a variety of reasons.  I really  want to take up yoga.  I have done it in the past and a yogi I am not, but I enjoyed it and always felt great after tying myself into a pretzel.  However, I know it will be hard at first.  I will be asked to stretch and move in ways that hurt, feel uncomfortable, and make me look weird.   The benefits are obvious so I need to just take the leap!  Same things are true with estate planning.    You may be hesitant to move forward because it is uncomfortable.  You will be asked to consider the actual possibility that you will not live forever.  You will need to stretch your mind to consider how loved ones will behave upon your possible incapacity.   Yes, this can be a bit strange and your face may look a bit weird as you think about things you normally try to avoid on a daily basis.  The benefits outweigh the stretching and discomfort.  After you complete your estate plan the feelings of peace and serenity are worth it.  Namaste.

Elder Abuse

June 18th, 2012

Elder abuse is unfortunately an all too common experience.   However, the State Bar California is one of the organizations trying to inform and educate people about elder abuse.  Education is one of the quickest ways to prevention.  For more information click the link below.



June 13th, 2012

When it comes to parenting no one can parent like you do, but even so, it is essential to plan for the unthinkable. When trying to choose a guardian it is important to think about the following issues to ensure you have chosen the right people. A child is considered a minor if they are under age 18. The following is a list of topics to discuss when trying to determine the best guardian for your child.

  • What are your most important values?
  • Where does the guardian live?
  •  Can the guardian handle adding children to their family?
  • What is the financial background of the potential guardian?
  •  Is the guardian willing to act?
  • What is the guardian’s parenting style?
  • What is the age of the guardian?
  • What type of funds will be available for the care of the child?
  •  Who will be the guardian if the named guardians were to divorce?
  •  Should you have a different guardian for the estate and person of the minor child?

The place to name a guardian in California is in a will. Therefore, it is essential that each parent create a will. Additionally, it is important to name two to three guardians in case your first choice is unable to act. Parents should review their will every few years to confirm the guardian’s are still the appropriate choice. Without naming a guardian the guardianship, proceeding will be lengthy and expensive, and add additional stress to the child and family. What if the one person you would not want to be the guardian is the only one to petition to be appointed? What if two different people end up fighting over who will be appointed? The costs and expenses for the guardianship proceeding will be paid for from your estate, meaning there will be less funds available for the child’s care. The best way to ensure a smooth transition is to get this important document done.


June 11th, 2012

A debate exists about whether a trust or will or no plan is the best. My answer is …. “It depends”… While I am hard pressed to find any reason not create an estate plan, I do believe that it is essential to have a will or a trust. There are positives and negatives to both; however, Trusts are rapidly becoming the go to estate plan because of the ease and convenience they provide.  A will allows you to leave instructions regarding the dispositions of your assets. In the will, you name an executor to transfer the assets, a guardian to take care of minor children, and identify the beneficiary/beneficiaries of your estate. A will is typically probated. A probate is the court proceeding used to transition decedent’s estate to the beneficiaries. However, in California an estate under $150,000.00 (this figure could change depending on the law in effect at the time of your passing) can be administered outside of the court system. A person my choose a will for the following reasons: Ensure court supervision or the estate is not large enough to justify the expense of a Trust. In terms of cost, wills are generally less expensive upfront, but if the will is probated the court fees and expenses can be very costly. Additionally, probate filings are public records; therefore, anyone can access the probate file and review the filings in that proceeding.  I tend to prefer a trust, and more often than not recommend this option. A trust allows a person to leave instructions regarding the disposition of their assets. In the trust, you name a trustee to manage your assets if you become incapacitated or pass away. The administration of the trust occurs outside the probate court, so no court involvement and remains private. A trust allows the settler (the creator of the trust) to control assets long after they have passed away. The trust does not need to distribute immediately, a person can determine that the assets are to be distributed in stages or the assets can be held in trust for the life of the beneficiary and then distribute after the beneficiary has passed away. The options are endless, and the trust administration is typically quicker than a probate and often less expensive.


June 7th, 2012

I bring the Staple’s Easy Button to my clients Trust, Will and powers of attorney for finance and health signing meeting. I use this symbolic button not because it is easy to order office supplies, but because estate planning is an easy pain free process. Once you have signed the documents, a burden lifts from your shoulders. Client’s always remark that the process was easy, and well worth the decision to move forward. Estate Planning is just one piece of your family’s life plan. A family life plan allows families to set goals and monitor their progress in several categories such as Health, Spirituality, and Finances. The Finance category can be subdivided into insurance coverage, retirement planning, saving and investment goals, and estate planning. Estate planning transfers a legacy to younger generations. A well-crafted estate plan can convey a family’s values and hopes for future generations. Warren Buffet created a plan that reflected his values and goals by gradually giving 85% of his Berkshire stock to five foundations. Most families are not pledging billions of dollars. However, anyone can include charitable gifts in their estate plan. Estate planning provides support, comfort and care to surviving spouses and children. Plans can protect children with special needs. Knowing that you have taken care of a child long after you have passed can provide tremendous comfort and support. A well-crafted plan considers who will take care of minor children, and how their financial, physical, mental, and spiritual needs will be met. Estate planning protects an individual during life. One cannot know the future; however, planning for potential future events and likely events is possible. Incapacity happens to the young and the elderly; by naming an agent to take care of your taxes and finances and an agent to make health care decisions you are creating security for your future.