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 Practice Areas > Estate Planning

An integral part of running a business is to plan for contingencies.  Yet many among us fail to plan for the ultimate contingency that we will all face one day, our own death. 

Our firm counsels all our clients—whether business owners, retirees, professionals, or investors, whether single, married, divorced, or widowed—to create their own estate plan before it’s too late.  The consequences of not having an estate plan are substantial.  The financial costs of probate, the delay in distributing assets to your heirs.  The loss of control over decisions about medical care or end of life.  The potential for confusion, conflict, and estrangement among those you leave behind. 

Think of estate planning as the way that you can preserve your assets and pass them on to your spouse, children, or other loved ones, while minimizing their burdens (and the expense) in handling your affairs.  An estate is the total of real property and personal property—such as cars, jewelry, bank accounts, or household items—owned by an individual prior to distribution through a trust or will.  Estate planning determines how that estate will be managed and distributed, both during your life and after your death.  In some cases, there may be advantages to making inter vivos gifts (gifts made while the donor is alive) as part of an estate plan, because the federal gift tax exempts certain lifetime gifts. 

We can help you to look at your options.  The cornerstones of every estate plan include:

Trusts are a way for you to hold property during your life that then passes through the trust to your designated beneficiaries.  There are several different types of trusts, depending on your specific situation.  The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust, which enables you the most flexibility over how you control your assets.  However, in some cases, an irrevocable trust may be needed, to protect assets from creditors, or to ensure that the beneficiaries have the income from a trust without being able to spend any of the principal.  As part of our estate planning services, we will meet with you to explore your needs and recommend the best type of trust.

Wills typically work in conjunction with your trust, to designate your executor (who may be a different person than the trustee or your trust, or may be the same person) and to make specific “devises,” or gifts, of personal property that is not held by your trust.

Power of Attorney.  No estate plan is complete without a durable power of attorney.  This document nominates someone to act on your behalf in case of your incapacity, and gives them the power to make important financial decisions for you, to pay your bills, apply for benefits, file your taxes, and so on.

Advanced Health Care Directives are sometimes called a “living will” that provides advance instructions about the health care and end of life decisions you wish to make.  In the event that you cannot make these decisions for yourself—because of your incapacity—you nominate an agent to make these decisions for you.  This document—or your will—also specifies preferences as to burial, cremation, religious ceremonies, and so on.

HIPAA Authorization.  Recent legislation that protects your privacy as it pertains to medical records requires that a healthcare provider have a signed authorization from the patient prior to releasing his or her medical records.  We recommend that you have a HIPAA authorization as part of your estate plan so that the person you nominate is authorized to obtain your medical records.  This may be necessary to obtain proper medical treatment or to apply for benefits like Medi-Cal.





© 2014 Law Offices of Eric D. Morton