How We Help
At the Gullotta Law Group, we focus on the following estate planning areas:
Advance Health Care Directives—End-of-life care is a uniquely personal issue, and an advanced health care directive lays out your wishes in the event you become incapacitated. Because life is so uncertain, all adults—no matter your age—should consider having an advanced health care directive. Having a comprehensive advanced health care directive in place will allow you to choose a person you trust to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. When you decide to have a California advanced health care directive prepared by your estate planning attorney, you will have many decisions to consider. Would you want CPR to save your life? Artificial nutrition and hydration or the use of a ventilator? How about basic comfort care? These are all important decisions you will consider when having your advanced health care directive prepared by your estate planning attorney.
Distribution of Assets—Should you die without a will or trust in the state of California (known as dying intestate), state statutes will dictate how your assets will be distributed. If you have a will in place, then your will must be probated, but once probate is complete, the remainder of your assets will be distributed as you have directed in your will. Having a living trust, will also ensure instructions are left regarding how you would like to have your assets distributed – But with a living trust you avoid the VERY high costs of probate.. There are also other steps you can take to ensure your assets go to those you choose rather than who the state of California might choose. Contacting an experienced Sonoma estate planning attorney is a smart first step regarding distribution of your assets.
Estate Administration—The question of who will administer your estate following your death or incapacitation is dependent on what type of estate plan you have in place at the time of your death or incapacitation. If you have only a will, you will have named an executor in the will—a person you trust to administer your will as per your instructions. An advanced health care directive will allow a person you trust to make healthcare decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation, and a power of attorney allows another person to make financial decisions for you in the event of an incapacitation. Finally, a living trust will name a successor trustee who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes after your death or in the event of incapacitation. If you die without a will, an executor will be appointed by a California court. Executors have a fiduciary duty to ensure your beneficiaries are protected; executors, personal representatives and successor trustees will all “run” your estate in the same way a business would be run by paying outstanding taxes, paying all debts, and distributing the remaining assets to named beneficiaries.
Estate Taxes—Those in the state of California are particularly fortunate in that the state does not collect an estate tax nor a state inheritance tax—that is, neither the estate of the deceased is taxed, nor are the beneficiaries of the estate taxed. There are, however, federal estate taxes in place, but theses taxes are typically applicable only for those whose estate is above $11,400,000 dollars (as of 2019). In any case, your estate planning attorney can discuss the issue of taxes with you, taking steps to ensure your estate will pay the fewest amount of taxes possible.
Powers of Attorney—Powers of attorney documents allow you to appoint a trusted person to handle your financial or healthcare affairs on your behalf. While a general power of attorney grants broad powers to a person or organization, a special or limited power of attorney is usually for a specific situation—such as your being away for a length of time. A health care power of attorney allows your chosen agent to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation, and a durable power of attorney ensures the power of attorney stays in effect until your death.
Wills & Trusts—Wills and trusts are the “backbone” of any good estate plan. Depending on your individual circumstances, you might benefit from one or the other—or both. As an example, even if you and your estate planning attorney determine that a living trust will suit your needs, if you have minor children you will also need a will to name a guardian for the children. More than half of all adults in the United States do not have so much as a simple will, let alone a comprehensive estate plan. This means that in the event of an unexpected death, the state will administer the estate—including appointing an executor and appointing a guardian for your minor children. A living trust offers a number of benefits, including privacy (wills are public), no probate process, and the ability to not only protect your assets during your life, but following your death as well.
Probate Administration—When a person passes away, the probate administration allows the person’s assets to be effectively managed and distributed. During the probate process, the will (if one exists) will be filed with the court, and the estate administered. If there is no will, the court will name an executor, heirs will be located, and the estate will be administered in much the same manner as if there were a will—although the person’s assets are unlikely to go to those they might have chosen. If there are no objections once the will is filed, heirs will be identified and notifications will go to creditors and to the public. The property will be inventoried and appraised; if there are insufficient assets in the estate to pay off creditors, the beneficiaries may not receive some or all of their inheritance. Taxes and creditors will be paid, and the remainder of the estate will be distributed to beneficiaries. When you are putting together an estate plan, your attorney will go over the probate process with you, helping you streamline the process to the extent possible through your estate plan documents.
If you want to put an estate plan in motion, you need experience, knowledge, and an estate planning attorney who can answer your questions. The Gullotta Law Group offers stellar estate planning services to those in the Sonoma area. Contact the Gullotta Law Group today.