What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is simply the plan you put in place during your lifetime regarding how your estate (your “estate” is everything you own, from your home down to your simplest jewelry) is divided after your death.  There are really only three things that can happen to your estate after your death.

  1. You can die with nothing in place, which is called dying intestate. In such a case, your entire estate would go through Probate Court, where a judge would decide who amongst your relatives and friends should get what, and how much each person should get.  The problem with this plan is obvious.  You have no control over how your estate will be divided and your estate is also mired in Probate.  Due to Probate, the time it will take to distribute your estate will be anywhere from 1-3 years, and the value of your estate will likely be reduced by anywhere from 30-50% due to Probate fees, attorneys' fees, costs, taxes, etc.
  2. You can die with just a simple Will in place. The problem with just having a Will in place is that your estate will still be in Probate Court.  The difference from dying intestate is, unlike dying intestate, the judge will have a document written by you delineating how you want your estate divided.  However, a Will is subject to challenge because it is not notarized and more importantly, your estate is still in Probate, meaning it is still subject to the same fees, costs and taxes described above.
  3. You can die with a Trust in place. There are several types of Trusts, but they all accomplish one similar objective, which is they avoid Probate.  With a Trust, your estate can be distributed out of Court and in a fraction of the time as it would in Probate.  In addition, most, if not all of the aforementioned fees, costs and taxes attendant to Probate Court can be avoided with a Trust.

Duvel Law, APC, provides professional Estate Planning services to clients located throughout the State of California.  Our firm will discuss with you the details and intricacies of various estate planning tools, including Trusts, A/B Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Qualified Domestic Trust, Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives.  Our experience and expertise enable our clients to avoid probate and significantly reduce or eliminate death / inheritance taxes.  

Many people are unsure when they should obtain the advice of an attorney to begin the process of estate planning.  Since predicting the future is impossible, if you don't have something in place, the time to do it is now.  Having said that, if you own a home or other property, if you have children (especially minor children), have recently been married or divorced, or wish to make a special bequest to a friend or relative, you should make or update your Trust.

Estate Planning also involves establishing directives regarding your healthcare and finances. Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives are critical in the event you are rendered unconscious, incompetent or otherwise unable to state your wishes.  Duvel Law, APC, can prepare Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives that will help your family make important decisions if you are unable to do so.

There was once a time when a hardworking person conducted business with only a handshake, his word was honored and respected, and he could pass his lifelong accumulated wealth to his family without much trouble. TIMES HAVE CHANGED. In today's world, the cost of dying can be staggering. Your Estate Plan deserves your careful attention if you are to avoid the financial pitfalls that can destroy all you have worked hard to accumulate and pass to your children. Your financial future depends on your being prepared today.  Contact Duvel Law, APC and let us help secure your future, protect your children, and preserve your hard-earned legacy